The Principle of Good Enough

There was a time I was hungry to discover that I was good enough. I didn’t need to keep striving, struggling, or trying to be different. Hallelujah! I was good enough.

If you have done any kind of self-help work or psychotherapy, you have probably encountered the value of accepting yourself and others as is, but that actually isn’t the topic of this article.

Our brains are wired to do what I call just GOOD ENOUGH learning and it’s this underlying principle that I want to unlock for you, because there are treasures to be had once one understands it.

We are all born with an innate instinct to learn in order to survive. Senses and patterns of movement emerge and, with this growing tool basket, we follow a deep inner drive developing along a well-researched sequence. The focus of this learning is to be able to stand and run as quickly as possible. All steps before this are leading to this capacity.

For many mammals, standing occurs within an hour of birth. Keeping up with the herd happens within a matter of hours. No colt or foal is perfect, but the genetic inheritance will emerge into its fullness according to the demands and bounty of the environment.

For humans, it is more complicated. Not only because of gait’s long gestation period, which is truly several years, but also in that anthropologists hypothesize that two-legged walking opened the door to tool making, art, spirituality, and higher cognition.

Today, each child has a plethora of skills to build and maturity is not reached until one’s early 20’s. Still, it begins with the same drive the baby antelope on the Serengeti has; to get food, to keep from becoming food, and to have the capacity to choose the best mate.

In today’s modern cultures, our relative safety and affluence has allowed us to care for individuals who lose their ability to walk or may never walk. But for them too, the availability of pre-gait building block movements has a significant impact on surviving and thriving.

Thus, the ability to run or walk is not only the primary means for fulfilling the basics of survival, it literally feeds all the systems of the body. It feeds our capacity to be in relationships with others, to go to war, to rescue in times of need, to serve others, and to make love.

It is curious then that we would end up spending so little time on the quality of how we walk. But from another perspective, it isn’t curious at all. This is where the principle of GOOD ENOUGH comes into play.

As infants we play, we explore, and while this may seem random, it’ss not. An infant is methodically making plot marks on the map of the brain, which further feeds development on all levels.

The marks first create a seemingly chaotic picture; the hand jerks upward, next it hits the face, maybe it hits mom, grabs a foot, or a foot hits a hand. Gradually, through these experiences, the infant builds a reliable habit which I call GOOD ENOUGH learning.

This habit isn’t necessarily the best way to take the hand to the foot or to reach out for mom. It is good enough, thus the infant feels able to place it more or less on the back burner by creating a habit. The child then continues onward to the next necessary skill on the vital road to walking and running.

GOOD ENOUGH learning is a requirement for survival. We need it.  Without it, we would continue to explore a movement to an extreme perfection. Or worse, we would need to relearn every day what we just learned. Either way, it would further delay the years in which we are dependent on our parents or herd to protect and feed us. All beings want to be biological survival material.

How do we rise above GOOD ENOUGH learning? We stop settling for getting from point A to point B. We examine our lives and what we want to be able to do over the length of it. We are fairly used to doing this from a professional point of view, what we may not be doing is asking these questions about our movement patterns.  We are even less likely to be asking how movement patterns are or aren’t supporting our emotional and spiritual life.

The quality of movement matters. I am fond of saying Quality Walking is Quality Medicine. In addition to the abundant research that focuses on how much walking is needed, I have observed that the quality of gait and its impact on joint replacement, bunions, spinal stenosis, osteoporosis, rotatory cuff tears, and chronic pain is likely significant. How would your life be different if the way you moved and walked gave maximum pleasure, circulation, and lubrication?

Sometime soon, I will be talking about the Principle of Now. But today, consider what action you want to take to go beyond GOOD ENOUGH movement.

Picture of Cynthia Allen
Cynthia Allen
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