A friend said to me the other day “I’m trying to stop aiming for progress.” It stumped me at first. I’ve always though of progress as a good thing – the antidote to perfection even. But what she meant was that she kept finding herself measuring success as reaching for something more than what she had.
Success was growing her business, taking on more clients, increasing her turnover and her profit, improving her game, increasing the opportunities she created for herself and her son. Which are all great things. But she was so focused on progress, on reaching something greater, that she was missing the good she already had in her life.
Sometimes the pursuit of achievement and greatness can leave us feeling inadequate, exhausted and underwhelmed. Sometimes we can be so consumed with achieving more, we can forget to enjoy what we have, and what is good.
In the book I’m currently reading, The Artisan Soul, Erwin McManus explains it like this:
“There is a subtle side effect when it comes to the language of good and great. Good has become less than great. Good has become “above average”. Good to great has become the same as better to best, when in fact they are of different qualities altogether when it comes to essence… Great is about execution and achievement good is about essence and ethos. The artisan soul aspires to do great work but never neglects the importance of being inspired by all that is good and beautiful.”
Good isn’t less than great, it isn’t the opposite of great, and it certainly isn’t – as I picked up the other day – “the enemy of great”. Good is something entirely different. You can have something good that is or isn’t great, and you can also have something great which may not be all that good.
Like the stories I’ve heard recently of a highly successful entrepreneurs who had become trapped by their own success, bound by the expectations, commitment and demands of the very business they had built: great businesses that wen’t doing them any good.
We often associate productivity with greatness – the act of doing more, achieving goals and reaching upwards and outwards, but I think true productivity is also about goodness.
It’s about doing good work, beautiful work, satisfying work. Work that does you, and others, good. It’s about living a good life – one where we embrace and enjoy being as much as becoming. Where exploring, wondering (and wandering) and asking questions are just as valid as achieving, reaching and having answers.
Yes let’s continue to aim for and achieve great things, but let’s reclaim the good too. I wonder, what does good look like for you this week?