It’s Good Enough?

When we think positively and imagine what we want, we risk disappointment; when we don’t, we ensure it.Lana Limpert

  • Doesn’t the title make you cringe?
  • Isn’t the phrase, “It’s good enough,” offensive to your sense of educational integrity?
  • Aren’t you tempted to impulsively react in a defensive manner when a student resorts to this worn-out old excuse?

Why would anyone ever claim “it’s good enough”? We know the pathway to excellence is never-ending, and yet we are constantly searching for teaching techniques that will stimulate our students to reach a higher level of personal achievement, to push them beyond the perceived “it’s good enough.”

Without question, every individual has an unlimited supply of undeveloped (or underdeveloped) talent. Even the masters are constantly pushing themselves to a higher level of skill attainment. If we know we can be more proficient, what keeps us from developing to the next level of awareness or understanding? Isn’t this the same inquiry we have concerning our students? Why don’t they study, practice, invest, commit, dedicate, and enjoy the benefits of their efforts?

Humans, by nature, enjoy comfort. In addition to that, we are creatures of habit, and we find ourselves repeating behaviors simply for the sake of fulfilling the requirements of life; in a sense, we do what we do to maintain the status quo or to get to the point of “it’s good enough.” Therefore, our students replicate the behavior by learning what they need to learn to meet the assigned goals, play/sing the chosen music, or complete the requested objectives; it is rare to find those who overachieve or push themselves beyond the targeted finish line.

Instead of focusing on what motivates the individual (in other words, what it takes to stir one to push beyond the given requirements), perhaps we should look at what is holding the person back? What is it that hinders the forward momentum of our students or us?

The world of psychology spotlights two specific areas that impede us in our quest for quality: fear of failure and fear of success.

Fear of failure:

It is easy to understand the hesitation to leave oneself vulnerable to failure. We have learned to avoid failure at all costs along with the embarrassing emotional pain that accompanies this dreaded outcome. Instead of seeing failure as a stepping stone to achievement, we often see it as a termination point.

However, the most successful people we know have all embraced the concept of failure and, in fact, have even used it as a motivating force to accept, correct, and retry the task at hand. There will never be success without failure; therefore, failure must be re-framed in our understanding as part of the formula to help us reach our highest goals and aspirations everyday.

Fear of success:

Why would someone be frightened of the prospect of success? Isn’t that what we are trying to achieve? Isn’t that the pay-off for all of our hard work? Ah yes, but success brings along some companions that are not always part of our comfort zone.

  • More responsibility:
    • A successful person will be expected to uphold the level of responsibility needed to maintain the achieved standard.
  • Higher expectations:
    • Winners are expected to keep winning. In most cases this means going beyond the level of the initial success.
  • Being in the limelight:
    • Successful people are seen and heard by all. There is no place to hide; others are always scrutinizing those who are successful.
  • The long fall to the next failure:
    • When the successful person faces the inevitable failure, the distance to the bottom of the mountain is greater than it is for those who do not try at all.
  • Separation from friends:
    • Success often creates a chasm between the individual and the rest of the crowd.
    • Peer pressure often serves as the deciding factor in whether to push the extra mile or not; it is easier to stay with the crowd and play it safe.

Based on the two expressed fears (failure/success), the most comfortable place to be is “it’s good enough.” The mind logically concludes, “Do what you have to do to avoid failure, but be careful not to catapult yourself to a high level of success.”

To counteract this reasoning, we, as educators, must be the first to model the benefits of both failure and success. In other words, we must be willing to set the pace by demonstrating our own willingness to push the envelope of possibility.

Failure (resulting from an effort to achieve) needs to be rewarded with guided encouragement to “learn from the mistakes” and then use the newly discovered data as we make a second, third, and fourth attempt.

Success (resulting from a calculated effort) needs to be acknowledged immediately, followed by the assurance that the value of the learning process was more important than the achieved product or outcome.

Students will reach beyond “it’s good enough” when they understand there are personal benefits to both failure and success; we, as educators, must reinforce this behavior to insure the positive seeking of higher levels of proficiency becomes an integral part of our students’ behavior.

The only time “it’s good enough” is when we decide to take action on the fact that it’s not good enough.

This article is adapted from the book “Everyday Wisdom for Inspired Teaching” by GIA Publications, and reproduced with permission from Tim Lautzenheiser

Tim Lautzenheiser
Tim Lautzenheiser

Tim Lautzenheiser presently serves as Vice President of Education for Conn-Selmer, Inc. His career involves ten years of successful college band directing at Northern Michigan University, the University of Missouri, and New Mexico State University. His books, produced by G.I.A. Publications, Inc., continue to be bestsellers in the educational world. He is also co-author of popular band method, Essential Elements, and is the Senior Educational Consultant for Hal Leonard, Inc.

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