Settling for ‘good enough’ as an enemy of improvement

Last week I wrote about the dangers of perfectionism, and how trying an attitude of ‘good enough’ might be the thing that helps break through the fixed thinking that creates it. This week, just to be contrary, I’m going to warn you about the dangers of relying upon ‘good enough’ as a standard. Do you rely upon things being ‘good enough’ and risk losing out on improvement?

Fixed ideas and conceptions

I paraphrased FM Alexander’s statement about fixed ideas last week, but this week I thought I should quote it in full:

A teaching experience of over twenty-five years in a psycho-physical sphere has given me a very real knowledge of the psycho-physical difficulties which stand in the way of many adults who need re-education and co-ordination, and, as the result of this experience, I have no hesitation in stating that the pupil’s fixed ideas and conceptions are the cause of the major part of his difficulties.[1]

Alexander firmly believes that a student’s fixed ideas are their stumbling block: their ideas about “doing it right;” about doing things “their way;” their ideas about what they can’t and can’t do. Frankly, from my own experience, even something as apparently simple as a student’s belief about the location of their hip joints can prove a stumbling block to their improvement!

Not settling for ‘good enough’ cake

Believing in stopping searching for something better is just such another idea. I have a friend who laughs at me because I am always trying out new recipes. For example, I have two or three classic chocolate cake recipes that I use frequently, but that doesn’t stop me trying out new ones. After all, how do I know that the recipes that I have are the best? By choosing to settle for them (they are, after all, very good), I might miss out on a recipe that is truly amazing.

Similarly, when trying to solve his vocal problems FM Alexander found that preventing the pulling back of his head also stopped the depression of his larynx and the sucking in of breath – and his vocal condition improved. This improvement was even confirmed by medical friends. But if FM had settled for preventing the pulling back of his head he would never have thought about the relationship between his thinking and the direction of his movement, and we wouldn’t have the Alexander Technique. He would have had a nice acting career in Australia, and I’d be teaching something else.

So I think we should be grateful that FM didn’t own the conception ‘good enough for the bush’ (yes, that’s an Aussie expression). We would have missed out on a tool that stresses (almost?) unlimited potential and continual improvement!

So next time you settle for ‘good enough’, just take a moment to check back in your mind, and see if you can count up how often you take that option. Maybe it’s time to try a new recipe.

[1] Alexander, F.M., Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual, Irdeat 1997, p.294.