Quality Control: Are you operating on a Standard of Excellence or the Principle of Good Enough?

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I’m not sure how pervasive the concept of striving for excellence is elsewhere. However, it seems to have become such a pronounced and inherent part of the culture and society I’ve grown up in.

It is definitely a fundamental buzzword in all aspects of marketing and business culture. It is a foundational concept in academia and education and has become the primary adjective by which we measure and assign value in all of life’s arenas.

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Superiority. Perfection. Worth.

When these concepts measure the value and quality of a service, product, or material object, we understand that there is an expected return of value for what has been invested. Generally the investment has a monetary value which required an investment of time, physical effort, and various forms of personal sacrifice. We come to believe we are owed value at least equal to what we have invested, with a potential for repayment and increase in value on that which has been invested. Therefore we come to believe that excellence in return for investment is the only acceptable outcome.

Risk vs reward works, up to a point, when it comes to material goods and commodities exchange. It’s the economic model and standard of the so-called American Dream.

As a result, in my society, good enough, which is synonymous with acceptable, sufficient, fine, okay, and passable has become devalued and denigrated, in many ways.

Especially when it comes to how we value people, their efforts, and ultimately their “outcomes.”

Damaged goods.

Broken.

Worthless.

Never going to amount to anything.

What do you expect? Consider the source.

You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.

How many times and in how many ways have we been devalued and denigrated? How often have we done it to our fellow human beings? How deeply programmed are these thoughts we have about ourselves and our own personal worth and effort?

How often are we instructed to minimize “the negative” about who we are and only accentuate and upsell “the positive” using as many synonyms of “excellent” as possible?

In the Circle of Security (COS) therapeutic parenting group based on attachment theory, it was stated that we don’t have to be perfect parents, we just need to be good enough. In alignment with the Positivity to Negativity ratio of 3:1 P/N I referred to in my Positively Negative post earlier this month, the COS acceptable minimal measure of being “good enough” is 30%.

That was something I had to wrap my psyche around in this ingrained life-set that anything less than 100%, anything less than excellence is sub-par.

The reality is nothing and no one is ever 100% excellent in all things and all ways. Yet, we expect it of ourselves and others almost all of the time. When we fall short of impossibly high internal and external expectations of excellence, regardless of whether we were good enough or made an effort equivalent to our capacity and ability in context of the moment in which the effort was made, we feel “less than.” When we encounter others in a similar failure to measure up to our “excellent” expectations, our tendency is to consider them somehow “less than.”

I’m finally realizing that good enough is good enough. In myself and in others good enough is sufficient, excellence is a bonus, and sometimes good enough has taken everything we had available and to offer in order to achieve.

And that is okay.

While researching “good enough,” I encountered a software and systems design concept:

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It favours quick-and-simple (but potentially extensible) designs over elaborate systems designed by committees. Once the quick-and-simple design is deployed, it can then evolve as needed, driven by user requirements

If you think about it, our thoughts, emotions, knowledge, abilities, and strengths are the software and design structure of our character and capacity. We evolve as we need to, driven by our internal and external user requirements. Some of us may initially have more or less capacity for change and growth than others. However, I personally believe we need to recognize and honor that we are all operating and functioning according to the Principle of Good Enough.

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6 comments

  1. There tends to be a two-pronged problem here. I agree, we tend to focus too much on perfection, which will lead to failure since no one is perfect. But there is also the problem of settling. I find it hard to strike a balance between accepting my short comings and my determination to stive for perfection. Good piece though. Very thought provoking.

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    1. Laura,
      I understand the dichotomy dilemma you refer to here. Here’s the thing though, “settling” isn’t always or necessarily a negative or bad thing. If all we ever do is strive toward a standard of unachievable excellence and perfection, then all we will ever do is look for the flaws and the things which are unsatisfactory. There is never an opportunity to settle in, settle down, and just live in the moment, appreciating and enjoying what is before us. Contentment and satisfaction will be fleeting, if achievable at all. If people hadn’t settled the land, doing the things that created the foundation and infrastructure of our country and our lives, it would still be all about survival.

      I’ve come to understand that there are character and personal growth areas I want and need to be working on and that there are conflicting and competing values, aspirations, and dreams which are not necessarily compatible, especially if I want to attempt to achieve excellence in each area of those things. However, when I look for the balance of good enough between them, there is a synergy and a composite that emerges which becomes greater than the sum of the individual parts.

      Blessings,
      Kina

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