Never Try Your Best: Why 80% is Good Enough


Every goal I’ve ever met - earning degrees, finding a new job, moving, or getting my articles published online - have all been a result of my caring less - 20% less, if I’m thinking quantifiably.

There is a voice of perfectionism inside of me (as is in most people), and when we listen to it, we delay starting projects, or it becomes impossible to complete tasks, because that voice has a relenting, critical nature. It suggests that we need to edit that brief one more time before e-mailing it, or we need to rewrite our conclusion, add another layer of paint, or reshoot the ending of our video. It tells us that we’re not ready, and our work isn’t good enough, but with just a little more time and fixing, we’ll get there. It puts completing that passion project, or starting that blog, on hold, until things are just so. It says we need a new computer, a new office space, and maybe a different collection of paintbrushes before we can begin any real work. Soon, we’ll be ready, it tells us.

Here’s the key: Never try your best. 80% is good enough. Start projects before you’re ready. Submit that article or story your’e not 100% confident about. Post that blog, even if you don’t have time to upload pictures because you have to help your kids with their homework. Don’t wait until your project is perfect, because what happens, inevitably, is you wind up with a mile-long list of things you want to start, or finish, and your two-high standards result in your feeling stressed and overwhelmed.


Further, shooting for a lower quality of work can allay some fears when faced with a blank page, or an empty canvas. Even when it comes to something as simple as starting a journaling project, you can put silly expectations on yourself, such as procuring the right pens. Continually, I remind myself that it’s perfectly okay to write sloppily in my beautifully-bound new leather journal. When the thought that I need to have a Martha-Stewart-level bullet journal, complete with glittery washi tape and scrapbook paper. The best way to start a journaling project - the best way to start any project - is to let go of the idea that it needs to be 100% perfect.

Don’t try your best. Shoot for 80%. If you’re at the gym, aim for a good workout, not a great one. Consistency is key. Half the battle is just showing up. This is not to say that you won’t achieve greatness, but rather, to stop thinking that it’s a necessity.

Focus on getting things done, showing up, and making movements forward, even when you slip up, or things aren’t working out 100% as planned.

If you adopt this mindset, you’ll feel less stressed, as you won’t buy into the limited mindset that you have too much to do and not enough time. And remember, 80% is still a high percentage. It’s no small thing to give every day 80% of your energy. When you let go of the limiting parameters perfectionism place on you, you give yourself room to make mistakes; you quiet your inner-critic, and you’re more inclined to put your creative projects out into the world. That’s what’s important: the sharing of your gifts and passions. People don’t care about a typo as much as the fact that you’re making headway on your goals. So, be consistent, and give everything a solid 80%.