The "Good Enough" Life
Three ways to want what you've got.
Posted September 20, 2021 | Reviewed by Devon Frye
- Striving for a perfect life often keeps us too busy and too tired to find peace and purpose.
- Comparison robs us of contentment in the life we live now and can result in pervasive anxiety, discontent, and feelings of low self-worth.
- Finding contentment in the simple yet meaningful aspects of life can enable us to appreciate what we have rather than long for what we do not.
- Practices that foster contentment such as mindfulness and self-care can rewire our brain to become more attentive to what is good enough in life.
In a world that tells us happiness is having everything you want, what if we actually wanted everything we have?
Welcome to the Good Enough Life, a blog that will explore the ways we can find contentment in the life we have right now. We will look at the neuroscience behind practices that make us feel calm, peaceful, and fulfilled such as self-compassion, gratitude, generosity, mindfulness, and connection—just to name a few. We will talk about the type of dopamine-driven happiness that quickly wears off and leaves us longing for more of the next best thing, as opposed to contentment, which slowly savors the everyday beauty of life around us.
Why “Good Enough”?
Perhaps it's because, in my sixteen years of private practice, I have repeatedly witnessed a narrative of “not enough.” It looks different depending on the person but often sounds like “I’m not smart enough. I don’t have enough. I don’t do enough. This isn’t enough…. I’m not good enough.”
With comparison readily at our fingertips, we constantly evaluate our lives, bodies, relationships, abilities, and opportunities through the selectively curated lenses of others. Endless standards of perfection—whether it be vacations, wardrobes, home decor, proposals, or gender reveals—constantly flood our feeds. According to the research, these increase our anxiety while decreasing our self-worth. “How do I measure up?” is often the subconscious question that permeates our thoughts and leaves us striving to be bigger, better, and more than the so-called competition.
How is this working out for us as we strive for a picture-perfect life that seemingly will validate that yes, we are enough?
We are too busy. We are too tired. We are too disconnected.
Maybe we have a life that looks good from the outside. We are doing everything that our culture tells us we “should” be doing, both for ourselves and for our kids. Yet do we have the time to enjoy this life that we’ve worked for or invest in the relationships that are important to us? If not, is this what we call a meaningful life?
The constant pursuit of perfection will leave us searching for more and, from what I have seen as a clinician, often anxious and exhausted. Instead, what if a life of true contentment, one filled with peace and purpose could be found in the "good enough"?
As a mom of four kids ranging from elementary through high school ages and a psychotherapist, I no longer have time for perfection. When I find myself comparing my abilities, career, or family with that of another, I stop and ask, “Is what I have good enough?” It’s amazing what happens when we stop to consider and appreciate what we’ve got. Nine times out of ten, the answer is “more than enough.” It is in these moments that I have let go of comparison anxiety rooted in “not good enough” and embraced the unseen gifts right in front of me.
Contentment is not sexy, but it is powerful. It is the acceptance that enough truly is enough. It is the intentional settling in to the simple pleasures of life much like you would your most tattered, but comfy sweatshirt, years broken in. At the end of the day, if you could, you would choose that sweatshirt over any other piece of clothing you own. It always stands the test of time.
Here are three ways that you can begin to experience contentment and a "good enough" life filled with more peace and less anxiety.
1. Practice everyday mindfulness.
We often miss beautiful moments in our lives because we simply aren’t paying attention. Constant multi-tasking leaves our attention fractured and our minds frantic. Choose one enjoyable moment in your day and pay attention to the details of the experience (sights, sounds, smells, feels, tastes): your first sip of hot morning coffee, your child’s belly laugh, a warm steaming, shower on a rainy evening, the softness of your favorite blanket, a crisp walk on a blue-skied fall day. Savor the details and take a moment to recall them later in your week when you may feel stressed. Try to choose one moment every day to slow down and enjoy the experience.
2. Take one-minute relaxation breathing breaks.
Proper breathing can lower our stress within minutes and bring a sense of calm. You might not have time to meditate for 20 minutes a day, but even one minute throughout your day can make a difference in your stress levels.
Try a 10-second breath cycle with a deep breath in for a slow 4 seconds and out for a slower 6 seconds. The longer exhale will stimulate your vagus nerve, sending your body into relaxation mode while counteracting the fight, flight, or freeze stress response. Trust me, this works! Set an alarm on your phone every 2-3 hours to remind you to stop and breathe.
3. Plan small, meaningful moments.
What do you enjoy doing? What relaxes you? What would make your life more meaningful? We often don’t ask these questions because we are too busy to make the time. Yet these are the very things that make life meaningful and worthwhile.
Pick one thing you would enjoy and designate time in your schedule to do it. Maybe it’s a relaxing bath with an aromatic candle, lunch out with an old friend, a visit to an art museum, even 20 minutes to read a good book on your couch. The extra time you are waiting for will never magically appear. Intentional moments of simple, meaningful self-care add up to an enjoyable day and over time, an enjoyable life.
Turning our attention to small, pleasurable things, lowering our daily stress, and planning meaningful moments enable us to see the good in our lives just as it is. When we can do these things consistently, it is far easier to find that life may in fact be good enough, and perhaps even better than we imagined, exactly the way it is.
Check out this blog every few weeks for more research-based practices on how to find contentment in the life you live now.