Humans have many ways to deny their own genius and to spin a story of despair and stagnation. We’ve seen “nothing ever changes” and “it’s getting worse.” Another shame story is that the change we do see is simply “not good enough.” We see that change is possible and things are indeed getting better, but judge that the amount and rate of change is not sufficient or that the change we see is not enough to feel encouraged by. We see all the ways in which life could be better, and we judge current reality as insufficient.

In doing so, we once again rob ourselves of the momentum and positivity needed to continuously push change forward. We use our ideal of what could be to let us feel how far away we are.

We may, for example, desperately want health care reform in the United States. But when Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) is enacted, we disparage it for not being as strong as the health care plans of Canada, Sweden, France, etc. Or we may wish that the Democrats stuck to their guns and pushed through the “public option.” And we’d be right. The goal of health care for all would be much better served if Obamacare had gone further, had enabled more change. It undeniably left millions without the care they need. But it also resulted in millions having care for that didn’t just before.

By emphasizing and focusing on all the ways that actual change misses the mark of our ideal change or does not represent a total solution to a problem, we once again set ourselves up for despair and stagnation. We take an opportunity for forward momentum and once again transmute it into another reason to be cynical and demoralized.

The simple truth is that no change that we actually experience in our lives will ever perfectly solve a problem. At best, real world solutions can only make progress toward an elusive, unattainable ideal state.
We will never totally eradicate poverty. We will never provide health care for all. We will never eradicate all suffering. Humans will never fully realize their full potential. We can only ever make steps in that direction.

If what’s “good enough” to satisfy us is the utter and complete solution of all our problems, then we have committed ourselves to be forever dissatisfied. But if instead we allow ourselves to judge each act of real world progress as simply “good enough” to propel us toward our next step forward with determination and confidence, then we’ve created a story that fuels us toward our fullest selves.

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Peter Schulte is the founder and editor of Kindling. Peter is also Senior Digital Engagement Associate for the Pacific Institute and the UN Global Compact's CEO Water Mandate, connecting businesses to sustainable water practices. Peter holds a B.S. in Conservation and Resource Studies and a B.A. in Comparative Literature from University of California, Berkeley, and an M.B.A. in Sustainable Systems from Pinchot University. He lives in Bellingham, WA with his partner Sara, child Owen, and cat Winnie.


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