Learning to Be Good Enough

Learning to Be Good Enough

This is an updated post from over a year ago, but it seems appropriate considering where my head is at the moment. Please comment below.

It is amazing how small conversations have an impact on you. Maybe they impact me more than others, but there are small but innocuous conversations that occur that can change the course of my life; a conversation I had in 1999 with my mentor was one such example. He asked me why I wasn’t going to graduate school in my current field. The truth was I had thought about it, but was still focused on pursuing something else. That one conversation got me off my duff and fast forward almost 20 years later and my life totally changed.

Two other conversations also stick out. I think I was out with some friends once and I asked a girl friend of mine if she would ever date me (I think I was complaining about my now ex at the time) and she said “Jason you are always looking for where the grass is greener.” A conversation that took place over liquor and a club has still stuck with me over a decade later. Finally, I was talking with my adviser about different ambitions I had for my career and she asked me “when is it going to be enough.”

These two former conversations are things I think about all of the time. When is my life going to be “good enough.” One of the things that I think has plagued me throughout my life is the grass is greener syndrome, which is probably why that club conversation with my girl friend struck such a chord. I think if I just make a little more money or if I work just a little harder than I will somehow be a better person, richer, live in a better house, a better neighborhood, have more friends, etc. But for the most part none of that is ever true. In terms of finances the more money you make often come with different kinds of problems. I am not saying that some problems aren’t ameliorated with more money, but others arise. The Notorious BIG was certainly on to something when he opined about Mo Money, Mo Problems.

But the point of this post isn’t to complain about making more money, etc. It is about me learning to be happy with myself and good enough. In my classes I teach my students about self-comparison theory and how we compare ourselves to others. We might compare ourselves downward and say I am so glad I don’t have cancer like so and so. Or we might compare ourselves upward and wish we had that kind of success or that kind of money. When we talk about this my students can instantly relate to the examples given. They have plenty themselves.

The truth is I am particularly guilty of this constant self-comparison, particularly upwards. I fully admit that I am envious of friends and family who have less debt, more money, etc. I am jealous of colleagues who have more success in their careers than I do. And I am certainly jealous of friends and family who have success in having children and the like.

I am not looking for a woe is me moment. That isn’t the point. Because the truth is I have a lot going for me. I have a wife I love to death, a good career, a great dog, money in the bank, lessening debt by the day, a home owner, etc, etc. Despite that fact I still suffer from the grass is greener syndrome. If I just do more than my life will be even better.

I have to do a better job of taking stock of where I am. If I die tomorrow I will have led a good life. A life that I hope helped and loved others and I hope they know how much they meant to me. That doesn’t mean I won’t struggle with this. I think this is my biggest cross to bear. Always looking to “some thing” else to make me happy when I have everything I need/want in the household I share with Mrs. ROB.

The larger lesson in all of this is I think a lot of us suffer from the self-comparison, grass is greener syndrome. I mean I think it is human nature. And there is nothing wrong with striving for more. But there is something wrong if that continue striving for more interrupts what we have in front of us. If the constant drum beat of needing to buy stuff or search for more beauty, love, money, etc. interrupts our core relationships.

I write this with no impending doom coming my way. I think it is just something I think about as I am getting older. I mean let’s be honest I am getting on the back 1/2 of my life. I want the next few decades on this earth to be better than the previous four. And part of that is learning to accept where I am, who I am, and not worrying so much about the self-comparison to others.

I don’t know what it means to be “enough.” When I figure it out I will tell you. Maybe enough is what I have right now. I certainly have enough stuff. I don’t need more.

What does it mean to be “enough” for you? Have you achieved it? How and/or why?

6 thoughts on “Learning to Be Good Enough

  1. For many, growing older is connected to becoming happier. There are various theories about this phenomenon. Perhaps older people do the things that you suggest–living for today, not chasing after more material things, and so on. See, for example, this article from The Economist: http://www.economist.com/node/17722567

    1. Good article. I am not sure what the answer is, but it is something that has always been a personal cross to bear.

  2. I think we all know we shouldn’t compare ourselves with others, but it is definitely hard! I think one thing that’s helped me is having very good friends who will encourage you wherever you are in life. Not the friends who fake encouragement and then passively suggest they’re better by subtly poo pooing on your salary or job title or whether your SO is nicer/kinder/richer than theirs.

    At least for me, I think the hardest thing not to compare is whether someone is happier than me. Even if it’s reinforced by material things, the comparison isn’t like “they make more than me”, some part of me is thinking “they make more than me and therefore they are happier than me”, “they make more than me, therefore they’re closer to following their passion than me”, etc

    1. SPot on observation. And measuring what it means to be “happy” is to ephemeral. I mean you think someone who has a BMW must be happy, but they most likely have payments on a depreciating asset. Having friends who value you for you is extremely important and keep you grounded. I wish everyone could be blessed with that.

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