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“I’m not good enough” is the most common complaint I hear from my new coaching clients (though not always in those exact words). This idea of being good enough, or doing something to a good enough standard, plagues people throughout their lives. And strangely, their solution to this problem is to pressure themselves into perfectionism. Despite this mostly leading to stress burn out and procrastination, people seem to believe that trying to do everything perfectly and having impossibly high standards will lead them to eventually feel good enough. Let’s talk about this..
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I’m not good enough. It’s probably the most common complaint I’ve ever seen in my entire history of coaching. It comes out in different ways and using different words, but it all basically comes back down to that. So the biggest problem I’d say anyone in the world has is this vague sense that they are not good enough.
Today, we’re going to talk about what that means, how people react to it, and why their reaction to it is what causes them all their problems in their life, and how they can do things differently.
So most people seem to believe that the solution to being not good enough is more and better, an improvement of some kind. But how can more lead to enough? How can better lead to enough? By definition, more and better are unachievable, aren’t they? You can’t get to more because by the end it’s enough. So if you’re seeking more and seeking better, you’re always seeking something other than enough. It’s like going south to get North.
If you think trying to be better and trying to get more is going to make you feel like you’re enough, you’re going backwards, not forwards. One of the hard reality wake up calls in my own life, and then of course I saw this in the lives of others, is that perfectionism and being ambitious and being a high achiever, without exception, are a result of childhood trauma.
Someone who’s always trying to be better, always trying to be the best, especially compared to others, always trying to be excellent at everything that they do and trying to be perfect, is almost always driven from an unhealthy demon inside them. There’s very few ambitious high achieving people that are coming from a healthy place. And I’ve dived deep into such people. What we find is it’s just childhood trauma. They are seeking to avoid pain, or seek pleasure and approval, using an old childhood strategy that they stumbled onto, which is they had a talent for something, or they had great endurance, or they saw other people doing it, and thought, That’s how you get love, or That’s how you avoid hate. And they’re still applying the strategy decades later.
You have to ask yourself a very simple question. Is this how a confident person behaves? A person without insecurities? Are they driven to be the best? Are they always trying to out compete other people? Do they need everything to be perfect and go exactly the way it’s supposed to? Does that sound like confidence? No, of course not.
Confident people don’t mind being middle of the pack. They don’t mind going unnoticed. They don’t care if their effort isn’t the best compared to other people, as long as it’s their own best effort. They have nothing to prove. They don’t measure themselves in terms of comparison. They aren’t driven by demons.
For a confident person, what matters is meaningfulness and enjoyment of life, not outcomes and rankings and status. You don’t need to beat other people to be confident. If you feel the need to beat other people; you feel need to control everything and order everything into perfection, you must see how obviously that comes from insecurity and trauma, and not from confidence and integrity.
Now, many people will say they wish they were good enough, in so many terms. They want to be good enough. They want to feel like they’re good enough. And yet, almost no one has a practical solution. Almost no one knows what you’re supposed to do to create that sensation of being good enough.
So they do the next best thing. They aim for perfection. They aim to win. They aim for an optimal way of living. They aim for success in all things. Aim for high achievement, thinking that’s what will fill the hole. And as you can see with the highest achievers and the most successful people on the planet, they just can’t stop. It never ends! The billionaires are still trying to make money. The world leading politicians are still trying to increase their ranking, so on so forth. They never feel like they’re enough. So that’s obviously not the solution.
Let’s break it down. Good. Enough. Those are two words there that we need to define carefully.
So what does “good” mean? Well good’s a quality measure isn’t it? It’s not a quantity measure, it’s a quality measure. It is about something that doesn’t require improvement. Doesn’t it? It’s above the line. It’s not bad. It’s good. So it must be enjoyable, meaningful, satisfying, healthy. Sure, there’s a lot of other terms you can add to it, but these are all qualitative terms. Not quantity. It’s not an amount.
Now “enough” is quantitative. Enough is an amount. It’s the maximum amount needed, isn’t it? Anything more than enough is extra. Anything less than enough as harmful isn’t it? It’s a scarcity. So enough is when you’ve achieved whatever the amount is, and do not need more. There’s obviously a lot more that can be achieved.
Enough isn’t perfection. And this is an important element that you need to consider because most perfectionist people, pleasing type people I work with, for them good enough and perfect are the same measurement. And yet by definition, they’re not. I mean, you wouldn’t need different words for them if they were the same measurement.
So clearly, if here’s the spectrum, and perfect is up here, good enough must be further down. Now can’t be so far down that it’s into harm and missing out on vital resources and so on. It must be somewhere above that. But anything between good enough and perfect is superfluous. It’s extra, it’s unnecessary.
One way to look at it is, say getting a degree in university. We used to have an old saying “C’s get degrees.” Now you can get an A plus on every assignment and every essay, but you don’t come out with a better degree than the person who gets a C minus in every exam and every essay. You both come out with the exact same qualification. So any effort required to move from a C to an A is unnecessary extra effort that does not benefit you.
And this is how most perfectionists live. They do all this extra stuff, or at least they imagine themselves doing it, to get the same result as somebody who’s just cruising along. And yet they’re bitter at that person, as if that person hasn’t earned it, without realizing, Hey, if the person’s done enough, then by definition, they’ve earned it. You’re the one wasting time doing extra.
Now you think extra might be, Well, it’s a luxury, you know, it adds more pleasure and more positivity. If good enough is good, well then extra is only going to be more good, right? Wrong.
There’s a thing called the maximum efficiency point. And this is a point that if you go beyond it and do more, you actually start to harm yourself, you actually achieve your goal less. There’s a time where like, you have to actually stop to get the maximum possible efficiency. And very few people are aware of this concept or know how to measure it properly. But when you start measuring it, you’ll start to see how often your perfectionism drives you to do so much more that you actually end up doing less because you harm yourself.
Think of the guy who tries to make as much money as possible, way beyond a living wage, way beyond what’s needed for a basically enjoyable and healthy lifestyle. This excessive amount of wealth. He works 90 hours a week, and in doing so he neglects his family and his health and his hobbies. He’s gone way beyond the maximum efficiency point, and now he’s hurting his overall life far more than he’s helping it. And he’ll regret this on his deathbed, which is probably going to be quite soon. So he’s not actually getting extra, he’s getting less with this approach.
Think about a guy who says more than he needs to to make the point. I’m guilty of this in some of my videos. Some of my videos can be five minutes and I go on for 40. Now when somebody like me does that, we actually risk confusing the point that we’re making. We add so much extra information it’s harder to understand what we’re saying. Or even worse, we might come across as needy, like I’m trying to convince you, trying to sell you, trying to get you, which actually repels you and makes you less likely to listen to me. So by saying more, I’m not adding more value, I’m actually taking the value away.
I used to make this mistake in coaching sessions. I used to do these like four hour coaching sessions. And I tried to jam as much value into them as possible. I’d try to solve every problem in that person’s life. But the feedback I kept getting was, It was too much, I can’t even remember any of it. So I started experimenting with dialing the sessions back to like one hour or less. And I saw that that would make more progress in my clients life than the longer sessions did. So there was actually a maximum amount of coaching I can do with someone on any given week before I start actually doing more harm than good.
And of course, a classic one we see is guys working out too hard, right? There’s actually some hard science that says a great workout is very, very short. You know, high intensity interval training is basically the best kind of exercise you can do. And we’re talking 10-15 minutes of working out. You get these guys who go to the gym for like three hours or four hours a day. Now, they might be really big, but what they don’t realize is that they would get to their goals quicker if they spent less time at the gym and they just did very intensive, very specific exercises. So they’re actually battling against the inflammation and injury that they’re causing themselves by working out too much, not knowing that actually that inflammation attracts fat, so if you want to cut down and you want to get all shredded, it’s better to work out less and focus on your eating than it is to spend all your time at the gym.
People often think of good enough as slacking off. As one of my client says, It feels like I’m leaving something on the table. But it’s actually the high achiever and the perfectionist who leaves so much on the table, they’re the ones that neglect their health, or their family, or just their enjoyment of life. They’re the ones leaving stuff on the table.
The person who manages to get it good enough in all the areas of their life, they’re leaving nothing behind, they get to enjoy it all. They get to have a really meaningful life with lots of spare time and freedom. You’re not leaving anything behind.
The idea that you’re lazy when you’re not busy, that’s conditioning, that’s programming, it doesn’t even make sense. You’re not less productive if you’re taking heaps of time off. You can look into the science for this for yourself. People who have fun get more done, or should I say get better results, than people are really serious and working really hard. It’s a myth that you need to be busy and burning yourself out to achieve great things. Odds are, if you are a hard working high achieving perfectionist, you’re doing much, much less than you could be. Your results are worse than they could be if you were to dial down and just be good enough.
See, by definition, good enough, you’ve done enough. Anything more is exceeding the maximum efficiency. You’re going to start going backwards.
You can never be better or more because by definition these are future states, you can never be them in the present. But you can be good enough right now, if you know how to turn that term good enough into a practical action that you’re currently taking.
A good enough social life means that the interactions you have a meaningful and loving and leave you feeling satisfied and connected.
A good enough business puts food on the table plus a little bit extra for fun, while doing satisfying work that doesn’t compromise the other areas of your life.
Good enough health means that your belly is below the dangerous level in terms of inches. You’re able to play with your kids without getting puffed. Your illnesses and injuries are being treated to the best of their ability. And you can handle whatever it is you do in your normal everyday life.
Anything more than that unnecessary extra.
So to achieve good enough, most of you actually need to aim for less rather than more. Instead of asking yourself, How can I be better? which as we’ve described is impossible because you’ll never be better, you can only look at it as a future state, you can ask yourself, How can I achieve good enough with less time, less effort, less resources? How do I do the most needed, not the most possible just the most needed, with the least amount? And you can make this the improvement that you seek to make each day, rather than trying to be a better person, rather than trying to outdo other people. See if you can get to good enough with even less effort today.
Now I know that this is an earth changing, mind blowing transition for most people. They have to become a totally different person to achieve good enough. They have to let go of all the programming and all their conditioning and all their childhood trauma and the bullshit that their parents and their teachers and the media piled onto them to turn them into good little factory workers, which is totally shit life for everybody. If you need help with this, like I needed help, get in touch firstname.lastname@example.org we’ll have a session and I’ll help you through it. Here’s to being good enough. See ya
Great post Dan, definitely something I’ve been realising myself as well. I started to think about my idea of good enough, and realise that it was all good enough for someone else. The amount of success I need to gain recognition. The body I need to have other people praise me. The amount of money to be respected. But as I started to gain those things, I realised that the things I sought didn’t come, or at least didn’t stay. Good enough needed to be good enough for me, creating a life for me and my family, not anybody else. And slowly less results began to bring more fulfillment. Of course I still want to grow and improve, but most of it is for improvement of quality of life, not for some external gratification.
100% mate. My breakthrough came about 2 years ago when I realised that I could never hope to “save the world”. Once I let go of that ridiculous idea of having some giant everlasting impact, I was able to just focus in on my family and my clients and my health, and stop caring about whether I’d be remembered.