Imagine how it feels like when you can end the workday feeling like you are doing good enough. When you can say in your mind “This is good enough” and your body embodies it, do you feel a sense of peace and contentment? I do. But it took me a long while to experience this congruence, but the journey was so worth it.
When we think we are not doing good enough
It can be challenging being in an environment that often makes you feel like you are not good enough.
Many clients that I have worked with struggled with work stress or burnout when they work in demanding jobs with a high workload. While having to report to bosses that are perfectionists, micro-managers and, more often than not, who criticise what wasn’t going well. They leave the job every day feeling miserable and dissatisfied with their own performance. They wonder about their own capabilities and their self-confidence begin to erode.
There could be systems in place that have conditioned us to compare ourselves with others, ranking us, giving us grades that have us feeling bad for being less capable than someone else. Systems that reward workaholism, instead of good quality work can be punishing for individuals who see the value of work-life harmony, of being good enough.
There are mental health costs when we consistently are put in a headspace of “not doing good enough”. We may experience anxiety that comes with worrying, overthinking, physical symptoms like nausea or sleeplessness. When we feel like we are not doing good enough at work, we may feel alienated or fearful for our job.
Unlearning “Not good enough” and Learning “Doing good enough”
Unlearn beliefs that no longer serve us
We carry rules and beliefs from our childhood and our past that served us well then but might no longer be relevant now. Recognise them, accept that they don’t serve you anymore and learn new ways of operating. For example, maybe we might have learnt that getting bad grades meant that we will fail in life. When I was about 6 or 7 years old in the 1980s, my parents used to threaten me: “Study hard, so you don’t end up as a cleaner.” I was scared that I won’t be respected for “not having a good” job, but growing up, I have since unlearnt that. It was a scare tactic that didn’t mean anything. Dignity and respect don’t come with jobs we hold; they come with how we lead our lives and treat others. My father worked as a cleaner at some point in his life himself and it is not a failure. In fact, I was proud of him. His integrity and diligence at work were worth more, and his minimum wage paycheck was actually good enough at that stage of his life.
Doing Good Enough: Recognise that we are worthy, and we are good enough
We are good enough. Period. Our worth is not determined by our productivity, our paycheck, our status, our houses. We are worthy and we have value in this world. We have the capacity to bring value to others, and we have choice in determining this.
Doing Good Enough: Accept our limits, our imperfections and our differences
One of the important things we can start with, is accepting our limits. We can’t have everything, and we need to be realistic and understands the constraints we are operating in. Neither can we be everywhere at one time. Resources are limited. We are human and we aren’t perfect. We have strengths and weaknesses. Everyone is different. Some other specific limits for me: I can’t work 14 or 15 hours a day anymore; I might take more time than others to do good quality work; I won’t work so I can afford a condominium.
Doing Good Enough: Know what our essentials/ priorities are
We need to determine what we would focus on, with our limited resources. Knowing our essentials and our priorities would help us allocate our time, energy and money. In my case, my priorities are my health, my clinical work, my relationship with my partner, my family and my close friends. I can live simply and consume minimally. Having a job that pays for the groceries so that I can cook my meals is good enough for me; I don’t need to eat at fancy restaurants.
Although our priorities are mostly relevant for quite some time, it is also important to expect changes. When things or circumstances change, like when we progress to another stage of our lives, practise flexibility and allow time and space for adjustment to our priorities.
Doing Good Enough: Know our values and let them guide us
My approach on how I would lead my life of good enough, how I work or prioritise what matters is informed by my values. Everyone has different values, and it is okay. When we can lead a life that does right by us, when we can act in a way that is aligned with our personal values, we will be good enough. Being genuine, present and kind are a few of my core values. When my decisions and actions are aligned with them, they would be good enough for me. Having integrity is crucial; so long as my conscience is clear, it is good enough. Anything else would be a bonus.
At work, this could mean connecting and interacting with others with honesty, presence and kindness. I have found a job that allows me to live my values in the professional setting. Certainly, I have professional service standards to uphold and deliver them in a way that satisfy my clients. I commit resources to meeting them.
Doing Good Enough: Try our best
When we know in our minds and our hearts that we have tried our best in a way that does right by us, within the constraints and limitations, this is good enough. It takes time to put things into practice but if we continue to show up and continue to try out best, we are doing good enough.
I enjoyed reading “The Four Agreements” written by don Miguel Ruiz. It articulates many these principles through the discussion of 4 simple agreements we can make with ourselves to guide our lives. Like the points discussed above in my post, the simple guiding principles don’t mean that they are easy to execute. Often, it is in the action that we have difficulty in. Have a read, try your best and be patient with the process.
Doing good enough can contribute to good mental health. It is not only about what we do but how we think and feel about it. The focus is on trying our best that is aligned with our values and recognising that it is good enough.