Fortune Cookie Consideration: Letting Things Be “Good Enough”

I always read the little slips of paper that come in fortune cookies, and if I get a good one, I save it in my wallet for a while. My favorites are the actual fortunes, like this one from last week: “Tomorrow will be a productive day. Don’t oversleep.” Thanks, Fate! That’s a great fortune, and it’s advice I thought I’d try to follow (…I said to myself, as I worked at the computer until 2:00 am. But I shifted the goalposts and set my alarm for noon, so when I woke up at 11:00 am—mission accomplished! That still counts, right, Fate?).

I opened up this gem last week:

"It could be better, but its good enough."

What can I say? “Its” demonstrating its own principle.

I’ve reflected on this one a lot since reading it. My thoughts usually go in one of two directions.

First, I’m the type that tends towards thoroughness and meticulousness, occasionally perfectionism, sometimes to the detriment of my actual priorities. I recognized this tendency a long time ago and therefore try to remind myself to pull back and just be done with certain tasks or projects. I already know that I don’t have enough time to do everything I want to do. Sometimes, I have to let things stand at “good enough,” then move on, because there are more important things to do with the limited time we have.

Second, it can be easy to focus on the flaws and ignore the successes. When I reflect on myself and on my place in life, particularly during this downer time of year, I can be pretty critical. I think of ways that I should be better, of ways that my life circumstances could be better. I’ll contrast Buffalo’s cultural scene with Philadelphia’s, or beat myself up over the fact that I only ran 2.5 miles at the gym instead of the 4.5 I should be running, or realize that I could have added another relevant piece of information to a newsletter that I just sent out, etc. Sure, Buffalo could be a more happenin’ town, but it isn’t bad—and it could be worse. It could be in Texas. Yeah, I know, I didn’t reach my insane goal of losing 100 pounds last year, but I did work hard enough to lose 50. Okay, I could have slung zingier retorts during a recent radio interview, but actually, I did a pretty good job anyway.

Even if it’s coming from a fortune cookie without the best handle on grammar, it’s good to be reminded that I shouldn’t look at those kinds of situations as failures. They could have been better—things can always be better, I suppose—and because I spend time reflecting on them, I can work to improve myself and my circumstances. Yes, things could be better, but sometimes, they’re good enough—for now, at least.

Oh, the irony: Considering the topic, I should have posted this a couple of hours ago, but I got caught up editing, adding, and tweaking language here and there. This is a learning process, I guess. The good thing about self-improvement is that there’s always plenty to work on! But the bad thing about editing is that there’s always something to work on…

5 responses to “Fortune Cookie Consideration: Letting Things Be “Good Enough”

  1. I have to keep reminding myself of the aphorism “perfect is the enemy of good” all the time. I’ve allowed this to stall my writing on numerous occasions this year, I am making it a goal to avoid this trap in 2012.

  2. Tim is right…this is brutal when you’re trying to write something. The internal editor is like your worst boss ever but without the pit stains and bad breath.

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