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  • High ambitions are noble and important, but there can also come a point when they become the sources of terrible trouble and unnecessary panic.

  • One way of undercutting our perfectionist impulses was pioneered by a British psychoanalyst called Donald Winnicott in the 1950s.

  • Winnicott specialised in relationships between parents and children.

  • In his clinical practice, he often met with parents who felt like failures:

  • perhaps because their children hadn't got into the best schools, or because there were sometimes arguments around the dinner table or the house wasn't always completely tidy.

  • Winnicott’s crucial insight was that the parentsagony was coming from a particular place: excessive hope.

  • Their despair was a consequences of a cruel and counterproductive perfectionism.

  • So as to help them reduce this, Winnicott developed a charming phrase: His parents needed to feel that they were "good enough parents".

  • No child, he insisted, needs an ideal parent; they just need an okay, pretty decent, usually well intentioned, sometimes a bit grumpy but basically reasonable father or mother.

  • Winnicott wasn’t saying this because he liked to settle for second-best, but because he knew, from first hand, the toll exacted by perfectionism,

  • and realized that in order to remain more or less sane (which is a pretty big ambition already), we have to learn not to hate ourselves for failing to be what no ordinary human being ever really is anyway.

  • The concept of "good enough" was invented as an escape from dangerous ideals.

  • It began in relation to parenthood, but it can actually be applied across life more generally, especially around work and love.

  • A relationship may be "good enough" even while it has many dark moments.

  • Perhaps at times there’s little sex and a lot of heavy arguments; maybe there are big areas of loneliness and non-communication.

  • Yet none of this should lead us to feel freakish or unnaturally unlucky.

  • It can be good enough.

  • Similarly, a good enough job will be very boring at some points, it won’t perfectly utilise all our merits; we won’t earn a fortune.

  • But we may make some real friends, have times of genuine excitement, and finish many days tired but with a sense of true accomplishment.

  • It takes a good deal of bravery and skill to keep even a very ordinary life going.

  • To persevere through the challenges of love, work, and children is quietly heroic.

  • We should perhaps more often sometimes step back in order to acknowledge in a non-starry-eyed but very real way that our lives are good enough, and that this is, in itself, already a very grand achievement.

  • Did you know that the School of Life is actually a place?

  • Ten places, in fact. Campus is all over the world, from Melbourne to London, Taipei to Istanbul.

  • With classes and books and lots more, please click on the link below to explore more.

High ambitions are noble and important, but there can also come a point when they become the sources of terrible trouble and unnecessary panic.

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