He who knows that enough is enough will always have enough.
When I was little, and had only learned a bit of English, I wrote a story. In English. I don’t remember what it was about,but I remember writing a sentence “She cried and cried until she had cried anaff enuf e n o u g h.” I tried and tried my best, and eventually had to go and ask my sister how the word was spelled. I found the story a few years ago, and as I read it, I could still remember the frustration I felt trying to get it right.
Coincidentally, it wasn’t the last time I had problems with enough.
Last Christmas, we got a total of eight chocolate boxes as presents. I love chocolate. In early January, I also became intimately reacquainted with the “eurgh” feeling you get after eating a bit too much chocolate a bit too fast. Somewhere in between removing the plastic wrap and not wanting to see another piece of chocolate that week was, again, the “enough chocolate” zone.
Every year, I promise myself I won’t drown myself in duties and activities. Every November and every April I notice I’ve wound myself too tight and bitten off more than I can comfortably chew. Somewhere in between I’ve passed the “enough duties” zone.
This spring, I’ve been doing my teacher training, and as a part of that I’ve had to teach sample lessons. The procedure is that first the trainee and the instructor go through the general topics and contents of the entire stretch of sample lessons. Then the trainee writes a lesson plan proposal, and the instructor gives comments. Based on those comments, the trainee revises the lesson plan and submits it to the instructor before the actual lesson.
Since a trainee only teaches between three to five lessons per group, and a maximum of two groups at a time, there’s theoretically plenty of time to write and revise the plans. If, however, the trainee has little or no experience in teaching that specific topic (which is often the case), writing one plan can take two hours, especially when you need to explicate your goals, timing, and different stages of instruction for each activity.
There is a point where little else can be done to improve the plan. That is the “good enough” stage. Knowing when to stop planning and move on is, I think, at the heart of becoming a teacher who won’t burn herself out three years into the profession.
The difficulty with good enough
For me, the only areas of life where I can honestly trust my judgment of “good enough” are those where I’m honestly pretty skilled. I can evaluate whether a situation requires my all-out effort – if I take an example from my singing context, this would be a situation where we’re recording the vocals for an album.
If it doesn’t require my one hundred per cent commitment and effort – like singing with a friend at a karaoke bar or at a relaxed band practice – I can go with “good enough” and focus more on the social situation or just having fun with the song.
If it was this simple with every area of my life, I would never have problems with “enough”. However, if I’m still learning something, like teaching grammar or organising a theater-in-education workshop, I don’t have the good-enough-meter calibrated properly. I need to put extra effort into consciously evaluating whether or not my actions meet the basic quality criteria.
In the learning stage, the best performance I can possibly muster might reach the general “good enough” standard – if I get lucky. However, the perfectionist in me doesn’t understand I’m in the learning stage, and only sees the shortcomings compared to the perfect standard. Even though I’m way beyond my personal “good enough” stage (and past the point where I could possibly improve it on my own), the little perfectionist urges me to work more, because we’re not quite there yet.
When this happens with about seven different activities – a few different school and work projects, social life, student organization duties, et cetera – it’s no wonder I’m pushed way past my enough zone into the zone of coping and survival. No more energy to spend on having fun or getting creative.
In terms of flow, this is the situation you get when the challenge of the situation exceeds your skills. Instead of a flow experience, you encounter anxiety and stress.
“I’m still learning”
It’s super difficult to admit to yourself that you’re incomplete. It’s even more difficult to admit it to others. Still, it’s the only way (that I know of) to avoid the perfectionist’s trap of being pushed off your enough zone in every single area of your life.
I’ve tried to remind myself of it by repeating “I’m still learning” to myself in stressful, way-past-enough-zone situations, and somehow it seems to help. It gets my focus off the fact that I’m not perfect, and onto the fact that I can calibrate my own “good enough” to my skill level. If I’m doing the best I can with the resources I’ve got, then it’s good enough – be it a lesson plan, a translation, a theater workshop, or something else.
And the fact that I’m still learning doesn’t mean my “good enough” won’t be someone else’s “fabulous”. That is the ultimate goal, isn’t it? To have such a high performance standard in your field of expertise that your “good enough” will knock the socks off everyone? Even when you’re ridiculously skilled, there’s still room for learning.
Enough for now. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by, and if any thoughts came up, I’d love it if you shared them in the comments. Until next time – keep catching your own insightings!