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  • Writer's pictureSubha

Going From 'Great' To 'Good Enough'

We want to wager a bet here.

Perhaps the most underrated mindset of our times is this- in a world of ‘greats’, sometimes it is good enough to be, well, good enough.

At this point, you’re either vehemently arguing with this idea in your head or heaving a sigh of relief. That’s the thing about the pursuit of greatness. It can be rather polarising. Those who have achieved something, who have changed the world, who have built something worth discussing, they have all strived for greatness on some level.

But what has that cost them? What is the pursuit of greatness costing us?

Grey’s Anatomy and why Bokhee is the best character ever written in television history

#BeLikeBokhee This should trend every day. There’s a new season (the 19th one!) of Grey’s Anatomy out this month, and we’re thinking that Ms Meredith Grey herself looks quite tired of playing the central character. She has suffered loss and heartbreak while also winning awards and surviving a pandemic. And she looks…drained.

But guess who isn’t ready to give up yet? Nurse Bokhee has been doing her job for as many years and seasons. Bokhee knows what she has to do: land up every day, keep a cool head, hand out the right scalpel, and don’t take it too personally.

It is the nature of her job to help a doctor keep a patient alive. No less and no more. She will do everything in the interest of this goal. Isn’t there a certain relief in knowing that that is the locus of your workplace control?

We have a question: How many of us struggle with the saviour complex at work? Do we invariably believe that we must and should deliver our best even when we run on fumes? And does that often lead to frustration, doubt, and a constant sense of dread?

What's a sandwich without the middle?

The ‘greatness’ syndrome is not a new thing. We have, as a generation, grown up on the notion that you either go big, or you go home. Everyone else is just in the forgettable middle of anonymity. Yet, some of the most content people we’ve met have been in that zone of being out of the public eye.

They may not have influenced a million people, but they have impacted ten people, and that has meant the world to the ten people involved. As my father rose through a public sector bank, he crossed several folks who chose to be good enough. They said no to transfers, promotions, and new opportunities but did their one job really well.

At MNCs too, the notorious Bell Curve for performance management is a stark reminder that 70% of any team lies in the middle. And it is this middle that is also turning every day and doing their best. That best is being held to a higher standard thanks to those willing to go above and beyond.

The pursuit of greatness, in times of social media, often skews our thinking.

Do we have a few thousand followers?

Are we influencing opinions?

Do we have opinions that have the potential to influence?

But a closer look at those who have truly excelled at their craft shows us a much finer nuance.

‘Great’ builds empires, but ‘Good Enough’ sustains it

The most successful people aren’t usually the ones who shone for a brief moment and then burnt themselves out. Successful people have found a rhythm that sustains them and their ability to exert effort in the right direction for long.

This is true of a lot of actors, in fact. They managed to hone their craft and get better with each performance. Listening to Tom Hanks recently on the Armchair Expert podcast, I was reflecting on his body of work, and just one thought came to mind. At age 66, he just wakes up every day with his briefcase of acting skills accumulated over the years and goes to work.

As simple as that. Right now, I have one role to essay, and I will go do my job.

What they chase then isn’t excellence at every turn but a redefinition of their own version of ‘good enough.' After all, isn’t that the job? To get better with everything we set out to do and to be good enough at it to the extent that we know how?

That’s why we’ve put together this four-point guide to being good enough at work, so we may sustain our energies for longer, continue to get better with each iteration, and maybe take ourselves a lot less seriously along the way.

  1. What are you good at today? What do you want to be good at eventually? Are your efforts, just for today, aligned with where you want to be?

  2. Have you, on this one day, done enough by your own definition of the word? What would it take to go easy on yourself?

  3. What jobs do you enjoy doing, and which ones would you rather avoid? What is preventing you from delegating or eliminating these jobs entirely?

  4. How do you define success for yourself? Is this a longer-term goal, or do you have short-term goals in mind as well?

Much as we would like to believe that we’ve cracked the code of being happy with where we are, we, too, have progress to make on this front. The one north star that seems to be helping us is this- am I happy with myself today? How can I be happy with myself today?

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