Custom Search

Friday, January 21, 2011

Deep post: The Philosophy of Just Enough

I thought I'd take this cold day off and compose a post about my life philosophy. I think you need to know this. And I think I need a reason to not go outside into the cold awfulness of this gray morning and run (*shiver*). So here goes.
I want, in my life, to always be in the best. Not "the best", but in the list of bests. One of the top 10%. One of the few. The kind of person whose notes you would borrow ... but who doesn't sit in the front of the class. I want to know about American literature, but I don't want to be an American lit expert, because I also want to know a little bit about calculus and a little about herbal supplements and I don't have enough gray matter to be expert in everything.
I want to know just enough.
This extends to every area of my life.
I want to eat healthfully, but not to the point of being vegan, counting calories, or cutting out coffee.
I want to stay fit and slim, but I'm just there - I'm not super skinny, not super strong, nothing that would require extra effort.
I want an A in every class, but I'm happy with a 97 instead of a 100 (but not a 94. Let's not cut things TOO close).
I don't want to look like a slob, but I absolutely refuse to "do my hair". It looks good enough with just a brush. And I look good enough with just concealer.
My sis and I obviously both subscribe to the "Who does their hair?" theory. I think we look good enough!
I should call all of my brothers once a week. But I think Facebook or an email is just enough to assuage my guilt and keep tabs on all their crazy antics.
Why am I like this? Shouldn't I feel bad for not trying my hardest or giving it my all or doing the best that I can?
Yes and no. Here are my reasons for this philosophy.
1. I'm all about expending minimal calories. When I read Cheaper By the Dozen as a child, the character of the father instantly clicked with me. His job was to devise ways to save movement and energy - basically to make processes more efficient. I thought, "That's the job for me!" I had always done the same thing. How can I clean the bathroom with the least actual work involved? How can I arrange the boys' bedrooms so that getting dressed only requires opening two dresser drawers?
And nowadays it's more like, How can I qualify for the Boston Marathon with only 9 seconds to spare?   How can I get to work exactly at 10 am, not 9:58 (but not 10:02 either)? How can I make a good beef stew using the crock pot and taking exactly 4 minutes of prep time instead of a great beef stew in the dutch oven taking 40 minutes of prep time? How can I know enough music theory to carry a tune and understand music without actually learning piano?
2. It's psychological. Always leave others knowing you have a little more to offer. I don't want to show people all I've got.That leaves me vulnerable.I like to hold back a little so I always have an ace up my sleeve. For example, if you write a book and put everything you know into it, how can you write a sequel? If you always wear full make-up, how do you dress up to go out to dinner on Valentines Day? If you knock out a 2:59 marathon, how will you ever improve or PR ever again?
3. It gives you space. I am not the BEST artist. But I'm pretty good. The extra time and dedication it would take to be the best is far too much for a hobby. So I use that extra time and dedication and apply it to something else - studying HIV treatment, for example. The jump from "really good" to "the best" is enormous and requires intense effort and a huge amount of time. But if you are satisfied with "really good", then you are creating free time and brain space ot apply to another area in which you would like to be "really good".
But there are obviously drawbacks to this tactic.
1. You lack the feeling of giving something all your effort.
2. You can appear lazy to others.
3. You will never be the expert in anything.
4. If you take it too literally you will probably get fat.

How about you? Do you do your best at everything? Do you triage items by importance? Would you be content with being just good enough? Does this post make you think I'm a disgusting slob?


  1. I am a dedicated underachiever. In everything except raising my children. With them I take more care and thought that I do anything else.

    But mostly? Just enough is more than enough for me. I used to strive for the best. And totally got it. But, the journey there? Caused me so much stress and anxiety that the end result wasn't worth it.

    So yeah. I totally get it.

  2. my husband (he passed away many years ago) was a wonderful cardiologist. he always preached: Moderation. it actually sounds very simple, but few can actually stick to it.

    i have always taken his advice and lived by it.

  3. I would say it would be impossible to be your best at everything. I like to be in the 'bests' of many things as well. I'm also not one to be 'the best', but have an importance list and things rank differently on that list.

  4. I don't think one can be the best at everything, but you can excel in various areas. Also, your measure of just enough might be someone else's best. It's all subjective!

  5. i thought you were a disgusting slob the minute i read the first post of yours. kidding. heck, anyone who sells drugs (legally) gets high ranks in my books.
    as ive gotten older, i realize more and more the things i want to spend my time on/get better at (running, celeb stalking) and the things that im totally complacent about... it used to bug me that i have a 6 figure private school degree in a closet somewhere that will never get used. but now i dont care. or at least enough to use and get a job!

  6. This post was so interesting for me. In so many ways. Lol!

    I don't want to be the best at anything really, or the best IN anything. I just want to be MY best. I know myself well enough to KNOW when I give my best effort at something whether that be a project at work, a run, or cooking dinner. I don't feel good when I don't give it my best effort so I try to do that as much as possible!

    Your comments about always having another trick up your sleeve intrigues me ;)

  7. I always say ...everything in moderation...that's what this post reminds me of. There are so many things in life that we would be missing out on if we were too extreme...sweets, coffee, wine, a good steak every once an awhile, sooooo many beautiful, wonderful things if we try too hard to be too much of anything. Part of what makes life so glorious is that we can slow things down, speed things up, take what we want, dapple in things and then give them up for something else, and then give our all sometimes and then come back to ourselves late. Love this post! :) Happy Friday to you!

  8. I feel this way, too, about many things. But not so much in other things. Like school. I was never ok with not being the best. I would get pissed at myself for getting a 97% on a calc test. Which is ridiculous... But maybe if I would go back and take that calc class now, I would be thrilled with a 97%. I think I am less uptight now! I hope!

  9. I completely understand this point of view. I've also had to learn the difference between this kind of moderation and being scared of failure. As I've gotten older and succeeded at various attempts I never thought I could do I've come to realize that if I tell myself I can't I never will but also don't let on how good at some things I am because otherwise everyone always just expects you to take on that role.

  10. I like to know a little bit about everything.

    If my time on a 5 k is better than my last one, I am happy.

    I don't think "good enough" is always bad!!

  11. The Church has something similar to 'the philosophy of just enough:' They call it "Evangelical Poverty."