John left university with a business degree and a lot of debt. He had a dream of owning his own retail business but because of his student debt, he was unable to get a loan. So, he took a job as an account analyst at a financial institution. It was a decent paying job to begin with and John soon moved up the corporate ladder. And with each promotion came a raise in prestige and pay. As the years passed, he cleared off his student debt, married, had children, and moved from their townhouse to a comfortable suburban home with an easy commute to his job. He has the ability to buy what he and his family need, has a small amount of debt, and he and his family take amazing vacations every year.
John would be the first to say that he is not really happy, fulfilled or enjoying his life. He has a good life but he has a nagging feeling that there is more. He is not complaining. He’s done what society expects of him. He knows that life has treated him extremely well and he’s living the dream.
But it’s not his dream.
Life for John is good, but it’s not great. It’s not what he really imagined it 20 years ago when leaving university, nor is it a life he really wants. He’s not really happy with his life. He did what he thought he was ‘supposed’ to do and has found what he has achieved is lacking something. But he is comfortable, he has a nice family, home, income and his future will probably continue the same way.
He doesn’t change a thing.
It’s easy to get caught up in the ‘good enough’ trap. Things are ‘okay’. Life is ‘fine’. The family home is ‘nice’. What possibly could make someone like John want to change? Little or nothing.
The ‘good’ keeps us from achieving the ‘great’. The mediocre prevents us from the extraordinary. The average halts an investigation of the ‘incredible’. We bury our dreams, our hopes, and our desires and settle for what we have. It should be enough, we have been told. We don’t think we should want more than what we have , nor should we think we deserve more.
“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.”Henry David Thoreau
The ‘good enough’ trap keeps many of us in a life of quiet desperation. We want to fulfill our dreams. We feel the need to push ourselves further. We long for a feeling of contentment and happiness in life. But why rock the boat? Why risk what we have right now for something that is not guaranteed and could wipe out everything that we have achieved so far in my life? Is it not better to accept what life has given us and just bury those feelings of unfulfillment? We have responsibilities we feel we can not abandon. Sure we know we could accomplish so much more and live a life of our dreams, but we’re not willing to pay the price for that kind of happiness.
And that’s what often happens. The ‘good enough’ wins out over the ‘spectacular’ and the ‘extraordinary’.
What was John’s dream business? He wanted to open a small tackle shop near a lake where his family vacationed. He wanted to help make the vacations of others more memorable by helping them to discover the joy he found in fishing and everything associated with it. He wanted a simple, small town life where he could walk down the street and know most of the people he saw. It wasn’t a huge dream. It wasn’t complicated and requiring enormous amount of money to fulfill. Perhaps he could have designed and marketed series of fishing lures, or a better type of reel. He could have passed along his love of nature to his children and shared quiet walks with his wife along the local rivers and lakes. He would have had a greater sense of completeness in his life by fulfilling his dream.
But the ‘good enough’ got in the way.
John may not have made as much money, lived in as large a house and travelled the world if he had pursued his dream. And his shop might not have been a success. He’ll never know. He hasn’t the motivation for change, for something new, for adventure in life. He figures that life’s ‘good enough’ the way it is.
Is your name John?
3 thoughts on “The ‘Good Enough’ Trap”
I left the “good enough” 20 years ago and have never looked back or been more fulfilled! Tough decisions were made but so worth it
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Thank you for this piece, Tim – and for asking the question. Are you or did you settle for a safe life instead of the one of your dreams? An interesting question for sure – and boils down to motivation for change. Speaking as an older woman nearing the end of this life I can say that I was motivated for change and did it a few times in my life. Once I started over and moved from Seattle to Espanola, New Mexico to be an artist and paint. And it was a wonderful adventure for 15 years. Then, when the bottom fell out in 2008 I did it again and moved from New Mexico to Costa Rica knowing no one – and here I’ve been for 12 years. So yes, I understand. Now I am grateful for where I am – not really looking to do more except to finish projects. How nice to be in the finishing phase of life. And thank you for phrasing it in such a way that I can relate.
Thank you Jan..Great to hear from you. I miss your wonderful smile and your gentle manner.