27 May The Good-Enough Life
Many years ago, I heard a phrase that I’ve used and shared many times since.
It was in the context of parenting, and how so many of us parents set out standards so high and are so hard on ourselves for not achieving some sort of perfection.
But the phrase, “good enough parenting”, encouraged parents to be more realistic and to be satisfied with “good enough”.
I have to say I’ve found it fantastically helpful; and I’ve also used it in a range of other contexts … good enough husband, good enough person, good enough colleague etc
Well, today I’m happy to share with you this Next Big Idea article by Avram Alpert on living a good enough life …
Avram Alpert is a lecturer in the Writing Program at Princeton University and a fellow at The New Institute in Hamburg. He is also co-editor of Shifter Magazine and founded the Interdisciplinary Art and Theory Program at Jack Shainman Gallery.
Below, Avram shares 5 key insights from his new book, The Good-Enough Life. Listen to the audio version—read by Avram himself—in the Next Big Idea App.
1. We need a good-enough life for all.
When we think of being “good enough,” we might imagine doing the bare minimum. Like: I have five extra screws for this IKEA table, but I did good enough so that it won’t fall over. That phrase contains a profound truth about human life: even though life can never be better than good enough—that is, we cannot eliminate accidents, errors, and tragedies—achieving genuine good-enoughness for all could help us meaningfully deal with these imperfections. By “good-enoughness for all” I mean that everyone deserves a life suffused with both goodness (including decency, meaning, and purpose), and enoughness (including housing, food, care, and education). When we find ourselves in loving and sustainable communities, if anything does go wrong, we can help each other bear the difficulties of life.
Some of you are thinking, why not innovate our way to better than good enough? Why not have a great life for all? One of the best answers comes from an early champion of the good-enough philosophy: Donald Winnicott. Winnicott was a psychoanalyst who, in the 1950s, coined the term “the good-enough mother.” Winnicott had been studying early childhood parenting and saw that many parents try to do too much for their children. Logically, we don’t want our children to suffer, fear, or fail, but Winnicott realized that if we keep them from these basic experiences, then we stunt their capacities for adaptation, creativity, and wonder. Not only that, but in trying to do too much for their children, the parents themselves—forerunners of modern helicopter parents—were often anxious and burnt out. We should provide our children with sufficient emotional and material goods, but if we try to do more than that, we will max ourselves out and deny our children their capacity to deal with all the strangeness and wonder of life—the full complexity of being human.
As I’ve watched society provide endless rewards to some and not enough to many others, I’ve realized that Winnicott’s lessons about parenting have a lot to teach us about other aspects of life. An obsession with greatness—with competition to prove that we are better and more deserving than others—is robbing us of the complexity, nuance, and common decency of good-enoughness…
… keep reading the full & original article HERE