“Well Enough” in Practice or Cutting Down the Options
by Matt Meller
A few days ago, in the post named “The Idea of ‘Well Enough’” I concluded the following:
When striving for the best doesn’t make you happy, instead getting along with “well enough” does, we may better strive for the latter. This is significant as it opens up new ranges of tools how to achieve personal happiness: self-limitation and a sort of minimalism, both directly implied in the principle of “well enough”.
But this a a very abstract thesis I want to explain further in a more tangible and vivid way. Let’s choose an easy approach and start with a very usual day. Imagine the morning, you get up, take a shower and proceed to your wardrobe – to decide what you’re going to wear today.
Then you rush for your breakfast (you might have spent more time in front of the mirror than actually necessary), wondering if cornflakes, waffles, bread rolls or sausages suit you most this morning. In case there’s still enough time before heading out for school, university or work you might have look at your newspaper – or your smartphone, tablet, computer or television to check the news or whatever you take interest in.
Can you see what I’m pointing at? We could go on quite a while, just to illustrate to what extend our daily life is pervaded by countless of minor decisions. The idea and movement of liberalism brought us many great things, among the greatest probably is (unfortunately it’s not held high everywhere and every time) freedom. Particularly the freedom (of choice) that one can do whatever he or she desires and consequently being able to choose from a variety of options. But one could argue that this freedom has been perverted rather into a duty, that we have to choose from an ever increasing mass of options. Unless we actively seek to opt out.
The point is that while freedom of choice is great, it will terrorize you if you have to choose from a wide range of options for every ever-so-small tidbit of your life. Think about it and I bet you’ll come to the same conclusion that this can’t lead into happiness nor give our life any meaning or sense which is what we actually aim for (don’t we?).
What is a valid solution to this dilemma? Like in the title of this small essay I’d propose it’s cutting down the options. To get back to the illustration of an usual day, this could mean that you decide for yourself that during the morning you forget about all digital gadgets and simply focus on your newspaper. Or that you limit yourself just on having the newspaper and your smartphone on the kitchen table. This directly corresponds to the idea of “well enough”, since it implies that you’re breaking out of the vicious circle to always consider every available option if it fits best, according to your needs.
By no means I’d like to suggest to cutting down on any options in every aspect of one’s life. The keyword here is focus. Focus on those decisions which actually contribute to your happiness and for everything else try to evaluate what works “well enough”. This is a quest, a journey which goes well beyond the horizon, but I believe it’s a good way to go.
As a little exercise why not start with something pretty profane. You might all have a smartphone, if not take your computer. Now think about which applications you actually need or which you have downloaded and installed just for the sake of it and simply delete the latter ones. I’m sure it won’t be a great loss. Personally, I’m down to 17 apps on my iPhone (plus the stock ones which you can’t delete) and I’m actively considering to bring that number down even more.