Strive for great, not good enough

Do you want to live a life that is great or a life that is good enough? 

Do you want to be surrounded by things that are great or things that are good enough? 

Do you want to have experiences that are great or experiences that are good enough?

If “great” is the answer – then why do we allow “good enough” to rule our lives? How did we get to a point where it’s acceptable to not get the best that we possibly can? What led us to believe that we can be satisfied with a life that is anything short of great? How do we get back to feeling great? The reasons we got there are complex, the solutions out of it are far simpler than they may seem.

There are two ways in which a business increases its profit. They either raise the value and charge more for the product, or they cut costs. The former is an approach that makes lots of sense, which is probably why the latter is far more commonly used. It has led to a terrifying drop in the quality of goods and services, on all levels, in all segments of our lives. It didn’t start at once, it took years and many tiny steps. First, they cut a little bit on the quality of the materials used. Then they cut a little bit on the quality of packaging and shipping times. Then they outsource it to countries with lower wages. Products remain almost the same. Profits are growing. Shareholders are happy. Until they are not. They got used to receiving profit increases and they want more. Outsourced work is not enough, so there’s an additional cut in costs – lowering the quality of materials, faster work, lower quality of shipping, lower, lower, lower… And we end up surrounded by a sea of mediocre products, that are good enough, do the job, but no longer bring us pleasure. We are used to it, it’s all around us, everyone is having the same experience. We no longer have a reference point for what is a great service, or a great product. There’s practically no competition when it comes to great. There’s good enough and bad. 

It’s no different in our personal lives. There are two separate elements at play there – how we treat ourselves and how we treat others.

How we treat ourselves

We get so overworked, so stressed, so focused on reaching whatever goalposts society has pushed on us, that we don’t have much time to reconsider whether we like the life we are living. Questioning the status quo is a dangerous thing. The answer will be negative and that will demand a change. A change that society is not ready to provide or adapt to. So we are convinced that what we have is good. Not great, but good enough. Good enough has become the standard. We no longer expect greatness for ourselves. After a long work week, we just want to have a quick dinner, relax in front of the TV, have a drink, switch off. The food is satisfying our hunger, we don’t remember what TV show we watched, and we don’t even notice the drink. It does the job. It’s good enough. We don’t treat ourselves with respect, with passion, with self-love, with curiosity for more. We just agree to whatever is there already and lose any desire for more. Occasionally we jump out of it – vacations, nights out, exciting new experiences. We convince ourselves that that’s enough. We convince ourselves (or we are being convinced) that we can’t have that all the time or we won’t appreciate it. It’s an interesting conundrum – society and businesses are constantly trying to get us used to lower quality and we are supposed to accept it without questioning it, but the reverse is somehow not only impossible but also unreasonable and almost damaging to our wellbeing. It’s a lot of bullshit, isn’t it?

How we treat others

When we lose the reference point of what is great for ourselves, how are we expected to know how to treat others? When we stopped paying attention to ourselves, we inevitably stopped paying attention to others as well. We no longer recognize what is great for us – so we don’t know how to create that experience for others. Devoting time to friends, family, lovers – it all becomes a big blur of “good enough”. We don’t even try anymore. Somehow we are convinced that simply spending time with the people we care about is good enough and that we don’t need to push the limits on that and provide them with a great experience every time. We save the effort for special occasions, without noticing that even those are becoming less and less special over the years. We can’t be a source of “great” for others if we don’t do that for ourselves first. 

How do we change that? 

We don’t need a rehaul of our whole life. We don’t need to quit the job, move to a foreign country, take an expensive course from a guru, reach a revelation. It’s far simpler. We need to start paying attention. Life is a series of tiny moments. It’s a compilation of details. All around us. In our home, in our relationships, in our heads. Details. Left ignored and unattended. We need to change that. Start noticing them. Observe our lives, every little detail of them, from the moment we wake up, to the moment we go to bed. Question everything for a week or two. It’s one simple question that we need to ask – does this bring me pleasure? Limit the answers to three options – great, good enough, not good enough. If the answer is “great” – keep it, keep doing it. “Good enough” – revisit next week, make sure that the current mood is not affecting our judgment. “Not good enough” – discard it immediately, or stop doing what we are doing.

What does that look like in practical terms?

When you wake up, what’s the first thing that surrounds you? The linens. Do they feel good against your skin? Is your pillow the right softness? Does it feel sticky and sweaty? If it doesn’t feel great – discard it immediately. You sleep on it every day. You spend 8 hours a day in that bed. That’s more time than you spend anywhere else! Why settle for something that doesn’t feel great? Then, move on, step by step. Do you like your bathroom? Is it cluttered and chaotic? Is it calm and serene? Does it make you feel good when you enter it, or it’s a source of frustration? Do you like your toothbrush and your toothpaste? Do you like your morning coffee, or it’s a quick caffeine fix? Is it an easily ignored habit, or do you enjoy the taste? Does the mug feel good when you hold it? Every detail matters. 

You may think that this is bollocks and you were probably expecting some profound wisdom that will alter your life and open up a whole new universe for you. Trust me – this is it! This is the profound wisdom you were ignoring the whole time. Your life is a compilation of tiny moments that go unnoticed. You brush your teeth for two minutes. You drink your coffee in about 15 minutes. You spend 15 minutes in the bathroom in the morning. Each, on its own, completely unimportant, unnoticeable, brief moment. Spend just one day counting the time it takes you to do these routines. From waking up to going to bed – it’s probably a couple of hours spent on banalities. Multiply that by 365 days. Multiply that by 50 years. Do the math, it will freak the fuck out of you. 

Why is it important to fix these tiny problems? 

What about the major issues, the major sources of dissatisfaction in our lives? Work, family, money, relationships… Oh, they matter. They matter far more than what kind of coffee you drink in the morning. But here’s the question… if you can’t pay attention to a tiny detail that you do every day of your life and you can’t change something so insignificant and minor that does not depend on anyone but yourself – what makes you think that you will be able to change the big things? 

Those tiny details are the training ground. They are the basis upon which you will build the strength, the courage, the criteria for everything else. Once you’ve mastered your own space, things that you have absolute control over, only then you can move on to bigger things. One step at a time. No listicle will solve your life’s problems. “7 things that will make you love your life” do not exist. Because life is not about 7 things. Life is far bigger than that. It’s far more complex. More beautiful. More difficult. And worth every ounce of effort.