Good Enough

Arin N. Reeves
4 min readNov 30, 2023

He who knows that enough is enough will always have enough.
Lao Tze
The Tao Te Ching

Over the last couple of years, we have expanded and intensified our dialogues on decreasing burnout and enhancing wellness in the workplace, but we haven’t really had an honest conversation about the underlying expectations of achievement and productivity that threaten the wellness we are striving to enhance. The increasingly robust body of research on burnout in workplaces highlights unreasonable workloads and unrelenting time pressures as the two primary causes of burnout in today’s workplaces, but a closer look at the research suggests that burnout isn’t simply being caused by having too much to do and too little time in which to do it. Burnout is most likely to occur when we don’t have an understanding of what is “good enough” to achieve on any given day.

If we are dealing with the reality (as most of us are) that we will always have more work each day than we can complete that day, burnout often sets in from not knowing when to stop working. Since work is never actually finished on any given day, we either end up working more than is conducive for wellness or we experience high levels of guilt when we aren’t working because we can’t stop thinking of what we left undone. When we add in perfectionism tendencies (common defensive mechanisms for people experiencing imposter syndrome and/or trespasser syndrome), burnout starts looking like an inevitability regardless of the wellness initiatives we put in place.

Think about this idea of “good enough” for a few seconds. How would you feel if you received feedback that you did “a good enough” job on something?

We live in a world where “good enough” is not really good enough. Our workplaces don’t just ask us to be enough or do enough. We are asked to constantly demonstrate our ambitions to grow and achieve more, and we feel like we are slacking if we even think about striving for simply “good enough.” This pressure may, in some contexts, motivate us to achieve more than we believed possible, but this pressure also drives us to an inevitable exhaustion because there is no end to doing more. What if we allowed ourselves to strive for “good enough” on most days so that we aren’t too exhausted to push ourselves to do more on days that need more?

Good enough can be just that…good and enough. As we navigate unprecedented levels of stress and exhaustion in our workplaces today, inviting “good enough” to be a positive lens through which we see our daily achievements can help us rebalance our need to grow with our need to rest. Good enough can mean that enough is good.

Even as I write this, my inner perfectionist overachiever is vigorously shaking her head and pushing back against the idea that “good enough” is actually good or enough. I imagine that many of you may be having the same reaction as you are reading this. If your inner perfectionist overachiever voice is anything like mine, it is probably unreasonable and loud; it is also probably completely uncaring of how exhausted the rest of you is as it drives your thoughts and actions. This voice’s mantra is “more more more,” but how can we possibly know what more is if we haven’t first understood what enough is?

As we go into December and our end-of-year activities of reviewing the past year and planning for the next year, I invite you to consider what your review and planning will yield if you ask “good enough” questions about your achievements and your goals before you let your “more more more” voice into the conversation.

  • What did we achieve this year that was good enough? Celebrate the good enough before asking, “What more could we have achieved?”
  • What did I get done that was good enough? Celebrate the good enough before asking, “What more could I have done?”
  • What can I do next year that will be good enough? Set the “good enough” goal before asking, “What can we achieve beyond the good enough?”

I can’t promise you that your inner perfectionist overachiever will be quiet as you look at life through a “good enough” lens, but if we are serious about wellness, we have to get serious about dealing with the “more more more” voice that dominates our expectations at work. We don’t have to silence that voice (I sure haven’t been successful at silencing mine!), but we can introduce it to the “good enough” voice and give both voices equal time in guiding our workplace experiences.

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Arin N. Reeves

President of Nextions, best-selling author, a fierce advocate for justice, a catalyst for smarter thinking on inclusion and equity