80% Good, 80% Happy

July 14, 2015

Categories: Happiness

Sometimes I feel a tension in my life between being good and being happy.

One of the things I strive for in life is to be good. I want to be excellent at my job. I want to write articles and books that change people’s lives. I want to be great at CrossFit. I want to get stronger and faster. I want to be an upstanding citizen, and love God and others well. To sum it up, I want to be good.

But I also want to be happy. I want to take a break and just play. I want to relax. I want to feel satisfied with where I’m at in my work, writing, and athletic ability. I want to be happy even if I screw up or make a mistake. Always striving to be good can wear me out and leave me frustrated and grumpy.

So for me, there is a tension between being good and being happy. The more I strive to be good, the less happy I feel in the current moment. And the more happy I feel in the present moment, the more likely I am to just accept a mistake or problem, rather than trying to fix it.

I think it’s impossible to be 100% good and 100% happy. There’s an inherent tension between the two, and I’m not able have both all the way. I have to compromise.

Lately my goal has been to be 80% good and 80% happy. In other words, I try my best at work, CrossFit, and loving God and others, but I’m okay if I don’t succeed 100% of the time. As long as I’m good most of the time, I try to let the other 20% go. And I try to do the same thing with being happy. My goal is to feel satisfied with where I am at, but I’m okay if that isn’t my reality all day every day. As long as I’m happy most of the time, I try to let the other 20% go.

Discussion: Do you feel a tension between being good and being happy? If so, do you usually lean toward the good or the happy? What do you think about the 80% compromise?

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  1. Alex July 15, 2015 at 5:23 am - Reply

    Interesting thought…I wonder if I will discover that if I am OK with 80/80 that I will actually be happy! (thus taking me to 100% happy!)
    Perhaps happiness sneaks up on you when you let it go and it comes as you are content to be good at what you do.
    I wonder if happiness is letting go of the weight of being perfect and embracing our imperfection. Not an excuse to be slooppy…just a life-giving Ahhhhhhh to realize we can fail and still be good at what we do.

  2. Jen July 15, 2015 at 2:53 pm - Reply

    This post made me take time to reflect about my life at this point (which is a good thing and I’m guessing one of the reasons you chose to write this post). If you replace the word good with perfect, you have my life summed up pretty well. When I was younger I wanted to be perfect in all areas of my life. I was suppose to be great at everything according to myself, “good” was not good enough. Was I happy? Not like I am today. It’s a different type of happiness for one thing.

    I’ve come to realize that it’s not possible for me to be happy when I’m trying to achieve “greatness” (aka perfection) because I will fail at one point or another, (not reaching my set goal for what is perfect). I used to set really high standards for myself in every aspect of my life and you can only go so far before your body and mind says “hold on, this is not ok” and something breaks. I’m happier now that I’ve come to accept that it’s ok to have a day when you do “nothing” and just hang around, but it has taken me a while to get to this point. Like Alex wrote, I’ve become happier when letting go of perfection but that doesn’t mean I’m sloppy or “bad” at anything in my life, I’m just prioritizing differently and my core values have changed a bit, refocusing from being perfect to being happy with what I’ve accomplished. For example, instead of working out every day of the week (like I used to when trying to be perfect), I do three to four focused work outs a week and I still see progress. And my focus is on the progress, not the end goal of being able to do a certain amount of push-ups or weighing a certain weight but being able to see that I’m getting stronger and able to do one more rep next time.

    I think I’ve lived the 80% good/happy life for the last couple of months without really realizing it and I’ve been content and happy for most of the time. But like you wrote, not every day is a happy day and I think you have to have those as well, accept them and let it go. Thanks for making me take time and ponder!

  3. Joshua Hook July 19, 2015 at 9:02 pm - Reply

    Good thoughts, thanks for sharing. John, I love the idea of letting go of perfection and embracing our imperfections. It’s so hard for me to do, but I think that is part of what it means to be human. What you wrote reminded me some of Brene Brown’s writings. Jen, thanks for sharing your story. Cool to hear how the 80% life has been working out for you. There’s a lot of pressure associated with being great/perfect. It sounds like you have allowed yourself to let up on that pressure a bit, and it seems like it has worked out pretty well!

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