Is “Good Enough” Really Good Enough?

Dips at Sunrise

This is a public service announcement from Nerd Fitness.

I need to bring a very serious problem to your attention.

A disease that affects millions of people around the world is growing stronger and more powerful by the minute.

Its symptoms include:

  • An increased desire to pat oneself on the back
  • A debilitating rationalization of unhealthy habits
  • A general apathy towards strenuous activity
  • An overwhelming satisfaction with mediocrity
  • Excessive use of the word “meh”

Doctors are working around the clock, but have yet to find a cure. If you work in an office or spend time in direct contact with unhealthy individuals, you are at risk for infection.

In fact, you may already be infected without even knowing it!

It’s called “Good Enough” syndrome and it’s wreaking havoc on our society.

Here’s how to defend against Good Enough, and what to do if you are infected.

How do people contract “Good Enough”?

Two of three Americans are considered overweight.  This means that for the majority of us, especially those who work in an office environment, it’s highly likely to be surrounded by unhealthy people.

If you’re not incredibly overweight, it’s easy to pat yourself on the back for not being as bad as your overweight friends or co-workers.  After all, things could be a lot worse, right?

Unfortunately, this is exactly how “Good Enough” gets started!  The benchmark for “average” line has been shifted so far out of alignment these days, it’s quite difficult to have an accurate portrayal of what “in shape” and “healthy” actually is!

And society isn’t making things any easier  – For example, clothing brands keep redefining their redefining their sizes!  A size 8 these days can be vastly different from a size 8 from 50 years ago.  Rather than offending people who are getting bigger, companies are just changing the number in their pants so that people feel better about their increasing waistlines.  Why?  Because it’s incredibly effective: if a woman wears a size 8 in one brand of pants and a size 12 in another, guess which brand she’ll be more likely to wear in the future? The one that doesn’t make her feel like she’s getting bigger (even if she is)!

This is absolutely the wrong attitude to have when it comes to fitness and health!  This promotes complacency and hides the real dangers of unhealthy living.  And just like that, “Good Enough” starts to take over.

Why “Good Enough” is so bad

I’m going to throw a golf analogy at you.

(Fun fact about Steve – I was the captain of my high school golf team. Yup.)

Let’s say you love golf and normally shoot a score in the mid 80’s [(for those non-golfers out there, lower is better)].  You decide to go golfing with three friends who happen to absolutely suck at golf.  They all manage to shoot 120 or more.  You shoot a 105, a full twenty strokes worse than your average round.  If you are infected with “Good Enough,” you’d pat yourself on the back for winning.  If you’re not infected with “good enough,” you’d be incredibly disappointed at how you played; who cares that you beat three people that are terrible at golf…you didn’t play up to your potential.

In golf, you’re always battling to improve your score against your previous efforts.  In life, every day should be a fun battle to see how much healthier, stronger, fitter, and faster you can become.

Not a golf fan?  Fine! How about an Iron Man analogy?

Tony Stark busted his butt to become Iron Man and save the world.  Unfortunately, he got a bit full of himself after his victory, fell in love with the ego-boost he received from being famous, and stopped pushing himself to become better.  He contracted “Good Enough,” which lead to all sorts of issues in Iron Man 2.  It wasn’t until he received a much needed dose of tough love (or punch in the face) that woke him up and pushed him to greater heights.

So why are Nerd Fitness rebels more like Tony Stark in the Avengers (a world-saving badass) and less like Tony Stark in Iron Man 2?  Because as stated in the Rules of the Rebellion, we’ve been inoculated against “Good Enough.”  We don’t care were we came from…only where we’re going.  600 pounds or six-pack abs, we are ALWAYS a work-in-progress, for there is always a dragon to slay.

Here’s how to protect yourself against Good Enough.

How to combat “Good Enough” Syndrome

Steve Kayaking

Life should not be lived in comparison to those around you.

Life should be lived by deciding what you’re capable of and then putting steps in place to actually make that level 50 happen.

Here’s how to give a rebel-roundhouse kick to the face of Good Enough:

  • Stop comparing yourself to those around you: This is tough, and something I’m guilty of all too often.  Who cares that your co-workers are unhealthy, unhappy, and continue to tell you “oh be quiet, you’re skinny” when you’re 40 pounds overweight!  If you want a better life and you don’t want to be overweight, be proud of your ambition and then get to work on fixing things!
  • Surround yourself with people who ARE better and stronger and smarter than you:  They say you are an average of the five people with whom you associate most…which means it’s time to start associating with awesome people.  If you want to become a better Halo or Starcraft 2 player, you don’t do it by continually beating people who are terrible, right? If you want to get in great shape, start hanging out with people who ARE in great shape!  Get inspired by them.  Respect their hard work and dedication. Do what they do. Shop where they shop.  Exercise how they exercise.  If you don’t have these options in real life, find your group online!
  • Never settle.  Superheroes can’t settle, or the world ends.  You might not be a superhero with the weight of the world on your shoulders, but that doesn’t mean you’re not a superhero to your spouse, kids, boyfriend, girlfriend, or friends.  You are their Captain America and they’re relying on you to push yourself to become a better person and show them the way.

Goonies never say die.  

Nerd Fitness Rebels never say “good enough.” 

I’m fine, thanks!

A few months back, I was contacted by my buddy Baker over at

He was putting together a pretty inspiring documentary on complacency called “I’m Fine, Thanks!” and asked if I could talk about complacency, “good enough,” and the story of my adventures with Nerd Fitness.  What resulted was some of the most epic footage of me ever filmed.  They somehow managed to make me look way cooler than I really am:  slow motion jumping rope on a mountain, dips at sunrise, epic trail running, and more!

All of the photos from today’s article came from the documentary!

I consider Baker one of my close personal friends, and I was so excited to be a part of this documentary as it deals with something I imagine a lot of us here in the NF community can relate to: deciding that “good enough” really isn’t good enough!

Here’s the trailer, where you can see some of the great footage shot (notice the epic dip scene late in the trailer!):

I’m Fine Thanks TRAILER

Baker and his crew recently put out a kickstarter campaign to raise some money for the documentary, check it out if you get a chance!

Fun behind-the-scenes fact: I filmed the epic footage and interview for this documentary after spending four days singing at the top of my lungs along with my favorite bands on the Rock Boat.  By the time I made it to Ashville, NC (where we filmed my portion of the documentary), I had absolutely no voice!  As you can imagine, this made the interview process somewhat difficult, so in between questions I gargled warm salt water to make my destroyed voice more audible.  While gargling at one point, I managed to drool ALL over myself and my clothes which made us halt production for a good ten minutes while I changed shirts and composed myself.  Sigh.

How I deal with “Good Enough”

This is how I personally keep myself protected against “Good Enough:”

I only have one chance on this planet.

I understand that just because others are unhealthy it doesn’t give me an excuse to be okay with “Good Enough!”  I understand that I need to surround myself with awesome people doing great things who want to kick complacency to the curb.  I understand that every day is an opportunity to get a little bit closer to level 50, and it’s my responsibility to live up to my potential as an eventual real-life superhero.

Every day, I want to wake up happy and go to bed proud.

I hope you want the same for yourself!

No matter WHERE you are on your own personal journey, how do you fight off  “Good Enough?”  

If you had “Good Enough” Syndrome in the past, how did you  find your cure?


I wanted to share this comment from Josh, that absolutely BLEW me away:

I think the root of the problem is that some people are lying to themselves about what is good enough. Good enough is by definition good enough. It really is. Different people define good enough differently. For some people, only perfection is good enough, where for others it’s only excellent, or better than yesterday.

The problem comes when you’ve called something good enough without really examining what that means to you. I think when Socrates said that “An unexamined life is not worth living” this is what he was talking about. If you’re flying through life on autopilot, good enough doesn’t mean anything at all.


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90 thoughts on “Is “Good Enough” Really Good Enough?

  1. I find the biggest danger of “Good Enough Syndrome” comes from loved ones who try to tell you, you look fine. Well, I don’t want to look fine – I want to look amazing!

  2. I had this bad when I was around 220 lbs.  I started at 262 and had lost over 40 lbs.  all my clothes fit better and I looked “good enough.”  I was stuck at that weight for a while, before I got the motivation to lose again.  

    The big change came for me when I realized that “I” can be fit, “I” can be hot, and “I” can have a sixpack.  Those things are not reserved for the choses, but for those who choose.  

    Great article Steve – I’m super jealous of all the pictures!

  3. Oh, I agree.  Even at my heaviest- “Nooo, you’re not fat! You look just fine. Come have some cake.”  I would have hoped my family would have been comfortable enough to tell me that something was wrong, since I *clearly* didn’t notice.

  4. This is what I struggle with most right now! I have lost 50 lbs, and I have been coasting on “Good Enough” for about a year. I started travelling for work last month, and it hit me that I needed to get back on top of my goals to become more fit every day. 

  5. Great article. Any extended plateau is generally when someone get’s bit with, ‘good enough’ The best takeaway, it’s not you vs. them, it’s you vs. you.

  6. Wow. That trailer just gave me goosebumps. It’s ironic that I’m sitting in my office indoors “going through the motions” of daily life while reading this.

    I can’t wait to hit up the gym after work now and blast GES (as if I needed more motivation after your weekly blogs).

    Thanks again, Steve!

  7. I got finished reading the article, hopped out of my desk chair and pounded out some push-ups. When I got up, eyes in the office had gone from excel sheets to me. That’s right co-workers: I just did that many pushup, And I hope you’ll come ask me why.

    Great, great article!

  8. Oh yeah, I have dealt with Good Enough Syndrome (GES). When I do pull ups (currently working on more than one pull up), people say, why? I am not overweight, and even look decent shirtless, but I am not strong. So I say “I want to level up my life” and continue my work. I don’t HAVE to do pull ups. I don;t HAVE to increase my strength to weight ratio, but I WANT to, and that’s what matters.

  9. I love reading things that make me want to put aside all reservations and blow the lid off mediocrity.

  10. Seems sometimes parents are the worst offenders too. Our bad habits do derive greatly from our upbringing.  Just have to ignore the negativity and hopefully inspire them to be better by example.

  11. My cure so far is nerd fitness. “when the student is ready the master will appear,” indeed. Just when I was getting tired of being overweight and not knowing how to go about fixing it, I stumbled upon this site that puts it in a context I can understand (more often than not, 8 bit video games :D) and make it seem a lot more fun. Previously I’d thought “I can still walk, still function, so my weight isn’t a problem,” but reading more about health and the more “slow burn” health problems that only kick in after a while, I’ve had my butt thoroughly kicked back to reality! So thank you Mr Kamb, and everyone here ^.^

  12. In my experience, I find that “good enough” syndrome infects me, whenever I have fear, doubt or worry. In one way or another, it is always these things that are holding me back or keeping me from moving forward.

    The way I overcome it, is to always remind myself to strive and go towards what I fear.

    I find this to be true in all areas of my life, not just my physical health…

    Great post!

  13. Sometimes I have this problem when lifting weights. When you let the faintest idea of good enough into your mind, than it is really hard to tell tell when you are really at muscle failure or your brain is just bullshitting you saying that’s all you can do.

    The most frustrating thing is a day later if I wake up and think “I should be more sore after that lifting session yesterday.”

  14. Sounds like an awesome film.

    I will note, however, I have the inverse problem – or at least, I am sure that what I’m doing isn’t Good Enough For Me. I’ve long ago said ‘Screw you’ to society’s expectations; yet, having been lumped with a chronic illness, I no longer know how to recovered my shattered dreams.

    I want to change the world. I just no longer know how.

  15. I agree.  I hate finishing a workout thinking “I could have done better”  Even if there were points where I didn’t get through my last set or whatever.  I still know I could have pushed it harder.

  16. I definately have this problem. I get my rear in gear, lose 7-12 lbs, feel good and kinda coast until… yep, wieght gained back, clothes not fitting… blah. 

  17. That’s what I always say.  I don’t HAVE to lose 20 more lbs. but I also don’t HAVE to make any more money, I don’t HAVE to have great relationships, and I don’t HAVE to have a fulfilling life – But that is what I CHOOSE to do!

  18. Thank you. Thank you so much for this. I am seriously lacking motivation.  In the last 3 months I have gotten a degree, a professional certification, I met my fitness goals, I ran the Warrior Dash, I released my first piece of software…all of my goals were met right around the same time. I’ve been left with no goals and no direction.   🙁    I keep pushing, and the people that surround me push back and say I go overboard, I’m too much, it’s too hard…I’m just lost. Thank for this…for this push in the right direction.  I’m not going to get stuck here in “Good Enough” !!!!!

  19. Great article. Very timely. I’ve lost just shy of 60. I’ve been exercising more that most people but I have been doing “good enough” with my eating and my exercises. I have taken my foot off the gas from where I was and I need to get the hammer down!

  20. I have the opposite, more dangerous syndrome. I have the “PERFECTIONISM Syndrome”. My motto is “Perfection is ALMOST good enough”… I’ll have to change that now. Can you help me with it? 

  21. Oh man I totally know what this feels like.  I reached my “goal” weight in January, but then realised – this is just an arbitrary number, I’m not actually where I wanted to be fitness/looks-wise.  But, because I’d “made goal”, it made it so much harder to pick things up and change.  Working on it!

    Also, that documentary looks amazing.  Do you know if it’s going to be on the website rather than TV?  Just wondering if there’s any way people outside US will be able to see it 🙂

  22. I fell under this disease for a long time.. I used the excuss, As long as I love me then it was “GOOD ENOUGH”.. even though I love me no matter what. its not GOOD ENOUGH. I need to be healthier and active to watch my grandbabies grow up.  Keep writing these fantastic artilces!

  23. I had similar trouble with the post – I think it’s a great message for some people, but I’ve never suffered from GES. If anything I’ve struggled with “I’m Not Good Enough” syndrome. 

  24. I think the root of the problem is that some people are lying to themselves about what is good enough. 

    Good enough is by definition good enough. It really is. Different people define good enough differently. For some people, only perfection is good enough, where for others it’s only excellent, or better than yesterday. 

    The problem comes when you’ve called something good enough without really examining what that means to you. I think when Socrates said that “An unexamined life is not worth living” this is what he was talking about. If you’re flying through life on autopilot, good enough doesn’t mean anything at all. 

  25. Love this!!!  So inspiring and helps me remember that life isn’t about the perfect house and the perfect job.  It’s about happiness and health and love.  AAHHH!!!

  26. Im only on level 3 (on easy) in my game, but once I reach level 50, I’m doing the game at a new difficulty! The day I stop improving or learning, is the day I die. My best friend was where I am now but she’s started on a new difficulty and I’m chasing her! I will win! 50 is not “good enough”

  27. Wow, that “I’m Fine, Thanks” trailer was really beautiful.  Completely inspiring…I immediately clicked on the kickstarter link and backed it.  I really hope it gets funded.

  28. About a year and a half ago i had good enough syndrome then i found crossfit and got my butt handed to me on a silver platter of reality. I changed my ways and lost 50 lbs. Then a couple months ago i started slacking. I skipped a few classes, and got to a point where i was barely making it once a week. My diet started to slip. Then my friend stumbled upon nerd fitness and all my roommates and i started reading it. Finding nerd fitness put my head back in the game. I cleaned up my diet again and got back to going to crossfit two times a week and i have made it a point to get in my third work out on my own. It is really easy to fall into ‘good enough’ and i am sure it will come around and hit me again and i will find the stregth and modivation to pull myself out again.

  29. **raises hand** me too.  Hypercritical of myself.  I expect perfection under every circumstance every time.  I’ve only recently been given ‘permission’ to relax a little. I’ll never go to good enough syndrome because I think it’s simply not an option

  30. I guess I worry about being too close to being in love with my physique so use that as an excuse to be just “good enough” the way I am.  I like to measure progress meaningfully – not just by body weight, but all elements of fitness – which means there’s always something to improve on. (But it does feel grrrreat when my abs are ripped!)

  31. I definitely struggled with GES. At my highest weight I was unhappy, but I kept telling myself that it wasn’t so bad, other people were MUCH bigger than me, etc etc etc… After becoming frustrated with how I felt, looked, and performed I finally snapped (in a dressing room where my size no longer fit). I stormed out of that stall with the “death glare” on my face and everyone with me knew something was up.

  32. Steve,
    Thanks for posting about “I’m Fine, Thanks”. I backed it as soon as the trailer finished. They’re a bit more than half way to their goal and I’m crossing my fingers that more people back it. I really want to see it!
    Along with Adam Baker and Leo Babauta, you’ve really surrounded yourself with an epic group of people. The Avengers of the blogosphere, indeed!

  33. Oh man, this is so made for me right now. Lately I have been constantly comparing myself with others and thinking “I look better than her”, meanwhile, my pants are getting tighter. I’m definetely losing control of myself and that has cost me 10 pounds. I gotta Thats it, I’m getting back on track! Specially now I’m starting a new job and will be surrounded by non-rebels.

  34. 1) That documentary looks awesome, and I can’t wait to see it.  Any major showings?

    2) This can definitely be a slippery slope, because you can take this mentality too far.  Think eating disorders because “I’m not skinny enough”, etc.  That being said, I think this post is one of the reasons why I take habit forming/building so slowly.

    When I moved down here in May, I started to eat healthier (more organics, locals, veggies/fruits…), and I haven’t quite made it past that step yet.  I’m trying to tackle my diet/portion sizes, since I know that’s where I fail most frequently; thankfully, I’ve been able to keep it up for 1.5 months now, and I am losing weight.  I walk/hike/kayak/workout a couple times a week, granted not as much as I should (yet), but that’s “good enough” for me at this moment.  It most certainly won’t be “good enough” in August.

    The only person I like to compare myself to is…  Me.  It’s only truly fair to measure yourself against yourself; no one else has all the metabolic, genetic, and physical eccentricities that you do, even if you’re a twin!

  35. This has just become my favourite article on NerdFitness. I am fighting hard to live my dreams, and you’ve re-inspired me, Steve. You’re a legend. Thank you.

  36. Thanks so much for this post, Steve. I’m just now reading your third mission email, and getting this post today just kind of sealed it all up for me.

    And we made a donation to the Kickstarter project. SO MUCH AWESOME. Plus, I have to give to anything that makes me cry like that.

  37. Looks like an awesome documentary! Just put my support for the project in on kick starter. I’ve struggled to improve myself all my life, so “good enough man” is defiantly my “Big Bad” (along with “Lord do it later”)

  38. Awesome post – especially hit home with the statement “They say you are an average of the five people you associate the most with”

  39. Great post, I’m always fighting to beat this syndrome.
    It is so awesome to be able to be proud of oneself, but that doesn’t work with “good enough” –> only with “as good as I can !”.

    I need to see this move made, so I pleged for the first time in my life 🙂
    Hoo-Rah !

  40. yes, right ,if you think that the weight you lose in few days is good enough to be healthy then you cannot be able to proud yourself ,try to lose weight  as much as you can . but does not concentrate on “good enough”.

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