Learning to be happy with good enough

I’d like to welcome Zoe Mounsey to my blog today. Zoe is currently in the final throes of studying for her MBA via an Open University programme. I’m in awe people choose to take on such studying once they’ve completed their higher education, and applaud everyone who does so. She also keeps her own blog, which is rather worth keeping an eye on for when she has time to write more.

My OU (Open University) tutor reminded me of an interesting word this morning – ‘satisficing’ – a decision-making strategy that attempts to meet criteria for adequacy, rather than to identify an optimal solution (Wikipedia). The everyday phrase I tend to use is ‘good enough’ and it pretty much means the same thing. I used to be a bit of a perfectionist particularly at work and would spend hours tweaking and editing my reports until I was happy with the outcome. My perfectionist tendencies came into play with my non work activities too, with me spending hours planning perfect holidays and days out. Good enough just wasn’t in my vocabulary – it had to be perfect.

Now after having children alongside studying for a further degree there are just not enough hours in the day for everything to be perfect and so I have had to learn to be satisfied with ‘good enough’. But it hasn’t been an easy journey.

I remember my first performance appraisal at work after returning from maternity leave and being very disappointed with only ‘satisfying objectives’ rather than ‘exceeding expectations’. But why had I expected more? The organisation was undergoing massive change, I had moved roles with little guidance and support, was working without a clearly defined job description and had started the MBA programme at the same time as returning to work. There was so much more going on in my life there was no way I could give the same level of focus to work as I had done previously. I still worked hard to achieve my objectives and while still being ‘engaged’ I perhaps didn’t go the extra mile as often as I would have done previously.

I am now in the final few months of my MBA and luckily am no longer working, however with two young children my studies don’t always benefit from my full undivided attention. Assignments are considered complete when they are ‘good enough’ rather than perfect and sometimes that even means when they reach the word limit. Key texts are skim read and only tutorial activities that are a ‘must do’ are completed. Exam preparation tends to be about strategic selection of topics and can be a tad nerve wracking. And as a strategy it isn’t doing too badly so far. Though I have to admit that it is sometimes hard especially when I get an assignment mark back and I think with a bit more effort that could have achieved a merit (I am not delusional enough to think distinction!).

So today when my tutor asked me whether passing my current module was enough or whether I was looking for more I answered honestly – a pass is good enough, I mean, is anyone (other than me) really going to care what grade I got in my MBA? What has been more important is the learning journey that I have been on both in terms of management knowledge and skills and about myself. All of the experiences of the past few years including juggling work, kids and studying have changed me. And on the upside hopefully by being satisfied with being good enough in my studies then I can focus on being good enough in other areas in my life too.

Over the month of February I am hosting guest blog posts and the invitation is open to all. If you’d like to take part, the question you have to answer is: What has been your biggest learning in life?

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Sukh Pabial

I'm an occupational psychologist by profession and am passionate about all things learning and development, creating holistic learning solutions and using positive psychology in the workforce.

2 thoughts on “Learning to be happy with good enough”

  1. A great post. When life gets busy and its not all about you any more, people who don’t make the mental adjustment that you have often become stressed and ineffective. You can’t be all things to all people at all times. The key is to prioritise at different times of the day, and learn to let go. About 10 years ago I became comfortable with the fact that sometimes, good enough is good enough. I don’t think I’d be able to manage my businesses and be good wife and mother without this approach.

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