Tag Archives: good enough

When “Looks Good on Paper” Feels Wrong

Have you ever had that experience where you were presented with the perfect job or person or situation or house or “whatever” and it just didn’t feel right? This is the Looks Good on Paper Fallacy and this is when we are often tempted to go with something just because it looks right even though it doesn’t feel right.

Let me give you an example – way back when I was in college I had dated a bunch of random guys who were never going to be my forever person. You know the types – not very nice, no real future, not incredibly smart, drank too much and/or habitually unfaithful. I was determined to change these men into guys who did meet my dream list which was a lost cause. You need to fall in love with someone for who they are, not who you are trying to make them become. These less than stellar gentlemen, who looked bad on paper, were definitely bad news for me (though I learned a lot about what I DID want in a relationship, so not a total waste).

This led me to attempt a change in my dating philosophy – I was going to choose men who met my dating criteria – who looked good on paper. Everyone has their own definition of what looks good on paper, but I was looking for nice, but with a strong spine; educated and intelligent (two different things); funny; and driven for “more” in his life. I dated a few of these guys and “eh”- it was alright, but not exciting. The difficulty? I had forgotten to take into account that special something that pulls two people together – call it chemistry or passion or whatever. Sometimes looking good on paper is simply not enough. It just makes it harder to explain it to ourselves and others when it doesn’t work.

Looking good on paper isn’t just about romance. Have you ever had a job that fits all your criteria – good hours, decent pay and doing something you should enjoy and you are simply underwhelmed. There is something missing. Or when you are looking to purchase or rent a home, you give your realtor a set of criteria you are looking for. They may show you place after place which meets that criteria and they just don’t “fit”. You are waiting for something to just feel right.

OK – so what is the point of all of this? It is important to remember that just because someone or something looks good on paper, doesn’t mean it is right for you. It is important to know what is important to you (your good on paper list), but also to know there is more to it for you to feel satisfied with the outcome. It is important to include your gut in your decision making process.

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In Defense of Good Enough

The concept of “good enough” is one that has (and continues to) challenge me throughout my life. I wanted to be “the best” at everything and strove for perfection. This lead to immeasurable frustration, and countless hours of banging my head against the wall. Why? Perfection is an elusive bitch and impossible to obtain. Am I the only one with this struggle? Heck no.

One of Charlie’s dance teachers and I were talking the other day about getting ready for an upcoming dance competition. She shared that she rarely sleeps during the weekend of competitions because she stays up all night adding additional stones to costumes or tweaking choreography or adjusting hairpieces. We talked about how hard it is to know when the costume, routine or anything is “good enough” and to know when to stop. This is a challenge we all face in many ways. When is our house clean enough, our children well-behaved enough, our report well-written enough? How do we know when we are clear to stop?

What does “good enough” mean? There is the dictionary definition which is something like “adequately good for the circumstances”, but this is really vague because good enough means different things to different people. Let me give an example, in college I had the opportunity to live with MANY roommates over my many years (undergrad and grad school). One thing you quickly learn living with different people, is you all have very different ideas of what constitutes clean. When is it “good enough”? I had roommates who freaked out if there was a water glass left on the counter of an immaculate kitchen. I had roommates who weren’t concerned if there were mountains of dishes piled in the sink. Each of these people had concepts of what was “good enough”. You can imagine the conflict if I had lived with these two people at the same time. (For the record, I was somewhere between these two extremes).

We each have to come to our own definition of good enough for our own lives. We then need to come to terms to others’ reactions to our idea of good enough. They may be angry (as were my roommates by each other’s level of cleanliness) or frustrated or completely agree. Create your standards and be generous to yourself. Good enough can be as much as needs to get down to achieve a satisfactory result. Returning to my daughter’s dance teacher, good enough is a successful routine with a completed costume. Anything extra (even if it takes it closer to perfection) may be a waste of time and energy.