Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Happiness Part Deux. The 80% rule?

Scott Adams (the author of Dilbert) recently posted an interesting post on his blog entitled "The Golden Happiness Ratio." Basically he says that you can predict how happy people are – and perhaps how successful – by their ability to tolerate imperfection. The Golden Happiness Ratio is about 4/5ths right, also known as “good enough.” Once you achieve about 80% rightness, any extra effort is rarely worth the effort. Adams considers himself to be "a master" of the 80% rule, using his comic as an example. This made me think; is happiness really based on how successful you are and is that success based on doing things "good enough?"

I think he has a point.

I wonder how this applies to the great artists though. Did Beethoven, Picasso, and DaVinci all just do good enough? And what about doctors, investment counselors, and pastors. Is "good enough" enough effort from them to be considered masters? Maybe it is. I think that if it is true, this fact should be driving all the perfectionists out there mad. When was the last time you met a happy perfectionist?

When I was a camp director, I considered myself a jack of all trades and a master of none. Truly I was not great at anything but OK at most things. Is this why I was "successful" (or at least not fired)? Maybe I was unconsciously fulfilling the 80% rule. I'm going to try consciously living out this rule this week and see how it goes. I may even write down a follow up comment on this post about it. Unless this post is good enough already.

May Light increase!

1 comment:

Andreas Granström said...

Hey Mark, just stumbled on this post as I was searching for "good enough" on google.

I definitely think that Scott Adams (and you!) makes a good point with "the golden happiness ratio". Myself, I have many times fallen into the perfectionist trap which definitely doesn't lead to any happiness on my part. Rather, it most often leads to procrastination, anxiety, worry and general feelings of inadequacy.

Obviously there are a few rewards in doing things really really well = praise from people around you, that is, confirmation of being an adequate person. But the big cost is getting fewer things done, or in worst case not even reaching the finish line at all, not to mention all the worry and anxiety connected to performance. Perfection is as you really say, the road to unhappiness, or even mental hell!

So why keep up with it then? I really think that the problem comes from valuing, or devaluing, yourself based on your current performance, and that particular performance only. No earlier performance matters - the one which is going on right now is all that matters - it will define if I am a God - or a real piece of shit. Thats why it becomes so important to perform perfectly well - to be safe of not being a total zero.

Thus the perfectionist becomes (1) afraid of mistakes and (2) tries really hard at getting things just right.

And as a consequence this in turn will lead to (1) learning much less and (2) getting much fewer things done, which in the end gives neither success nor happinness.

I will take your suggestion this week and consciously do things only 80%

PS. I even got the suggestion to do things badly, since you'll most probably get help from other people who'll do the task for you. Good if there's a lot on your table :) DS.