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How to Accept What Is Good Enough

The importance of redefining success on your terms.

Key points

  • Unhealthy striving can get in the way of acceptance and feeling good enough.
  • Both societal and internal barriers contribute to unhealthy striving.
  • Redefining success on your own terms helps with internal motivation and well-being.

“I’ve gone through my life trying to reach all of these milestones of success. I graduated college with honors, got a job with a decent salary, and recently got promoted. I have enough money to afford nice things and experiences. But as I look around, I’m reminded that I could always be doing more. Someone else is doing something more impressive or there’s some new milestone I could be striving for. Will it ever feel like what I’m doing is enough?”

Source: Luis Villasmil/Unsplash
Source: Luis Villasmil/Unsplash

These are words directly shared with me from various clients I’ve worked with who come from a background of constant striving, high achievement, and success. They feel like pursuing goals has become their norm and they’re not happy about it.

Being in this perpetual state of Not Enoughness has negative effects on your mental and physical health. For example, people who struggle with perfectionism and constant striving experience more symptoms of anxiety, depression, and burnout (Thomas and Bigatti, 2020).

You may also feel like the goalpost is always moving and that you should or could be doing more. You may also want to know when what you’re doing will feel like enough.

To accomplish things in life and be at peace with what you have achieved, you have to define when enough is truly, good enough for you.

Here are some barriers to accepting when things are enough. Then I will discuss how to practice a good-enough mindset when achieving goals.

Common Barriers to Accepting Good Enough

  • Perfectionism leads to holding unrealistically high standards and having a hard time letting go of control. When you are fixated on achieving a “perfect” outcome, it is difficult to let go of the impulse to fix every detail or perceived flaw.
  • Self-criticism leads to judging yourself harshly. You may perceive more things as unacceptable. You may also think accepting “good enough” is synonymous with being weak.
  • Making constant comparisons to others diminishes the good enough nature of your achievements. There will always be something or someone better. Attempting to keep up with what others have will set you up in this perpetual race of striving.
  • Societal pressure and cultural expectations inform how we define what is good enough and are markers of success. For example, our families, teachers, and workplaces tell us how getting a certain type of job or level of education, making more money, and achieving a certain lifestyle are keys to happiness, feeling good enough, and being accepted.
  • Past experiences may reward perfectionist tendencies and emphasize outcomes over experiences. These experiences teach us that resting and enjoying experiences for the sake of pleasure are less worthy of respect. We become conditioned to do more of the striving and "productive" goal-seeking that is rewarded.

Despite these societal and cultural conditions and internal barriers, we have a choice to adopt a different approach to our goals and achievements. It starts with creating a self-determined definition of success.

Self Determination: Redefining Success on Your Own Terms

Self-determination is an important concept in psychology that speaks to our abilities to be autonomous, intrinsically motivated, and goal-oriented (Burgstahler, 2012; Ryan and Deci, 2000).

Your self-determined definition of success will more accurately reflect how you want to show up in the world, not how you think you should, or how someone else has said you ought to be.

Source: Ksenia Makagonova/Unsplash
Source: Ksenia Makagonova/Unsplash

Use these three principles when you consider your self-determined definition of success:

  1. Make It Personal: Good enough will look different for every person. Define success based on your strengths, values, goals, and life circumstances. Don’t compare yourself to others’ metrics and progress. What are the personal goals relevant to your life right now?
  2. Make It Process-Oriented: Have a clear picture of what you would like to see happen throughout the process of reaching your goal. How will you know that you have reached a good enough point? What are skills and lessons you want to apply along the way that will keep you motivated and like you’re learning throughout this process?
  3. Make It Flexible: Things come up. Remember to let go of what you cannot control and be ready to pivot. Timelines and expectations should remain adaptable to changing circumstances.


We all like to achieve things and feel a sense of accomplishment. Sometimes we get caught up in this pattern of goal setting and achievement that we don’t stop to acknowledge that we’ve done enough. Here are a few more things to keep in mind when living with a good enough mindset.

Treat yourself with compassion: You are a human being first (not always about achievements and doing, it is more importantly about how you feel and live).

Embrace mistakes: A part of learning and growing means you will fail and this too is part of the good-enough process. Reframing your perspective on success will help this process of learning feel more rewarding and sustainable.


Ryan, R.M. & Deci, E.L. (2000). Self-Determination Theory and the Facilitation of Intrinsic Motivation, Social Development, and Well-Being. American Psychologist. 55(1): 68-78.

Burgstahler, S. (2012). "Taking Charge: Stories of Success and Self-Determination." DO-IT. University of Washington.

Thomas, M. & Bigatti, S. (2020). Perfectionism, impostor phenomenon, and mental health in medicine: a literature review. International Journal of Medical Education, 11:201-213.

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