You may have noticed in the past six months that I adore playing with words. In October, I coined OcTraPiMo for “October Trash Pick-up Month.” To kick off the new year, my accountability partner, Elena Hartwell Taylor, a developmental editor at Allegory Editing, suggested a new word from a phrase I used. Keeping it “Simple And Good Enough.” Introducing ‘SAGE‘, or “avoiding perfection.”

Keep it simple and good enough. The snow might not have been right for rolling big creations, but with snow molds, we could still create snow penguins for our deck railing.
Keep it simple and good enough. The snow might not have been right for rolling big creations, but with snow molds, we could still create snow penguins for our deck railing.

Make Mistakes

Perfection is an illusion I’m more than ready to let go of. Instead of setting resolutions this year, I’m going to embrace making mistakes. The more the better. Because that means I’m trying new things and stretching outside of my comfort zone.

One caveat: meet Making Mistakes’ big brother, Learning From Them. We must learn so we don’t make the same ones again. I have made (and continue to make) tons of mistakes in my life, some of which I’ve learned from, others I haven’t. I want to explore the silver linings. To embrace the changes that come from trying something new and discovering things I never knew before. Like our annual tradition of taking the Polar Bear Plunge in Lake Washington on New Year’s Day.

Keep It Simple And Good Enough in Your 2022 Goals
The author (arms raised in the water) in Lake Washington (41 degrees water, 33 degrees air) on January 1, 2022, around 1 p.m. This is the fourth year we’ve done the Polar Bear Plunge in Seattle (third in a row) and definitely the coldest. Photo courtesy B. Schurman.

Make Simple and Good Enough Goals You Can Keep

As a trainer, most of the year I teach clients about setting SMART goals – making them Specific, Measurable, Action-oriented, Realistic, and Time-stamped. I am not a fan of page-turn resolutions as I know most of them fail within the first month of a new year. My plan to “keep it simple and good enough” inspires playfulness rather than dread. If I don’t think I can consistently drink 65 ounces of water (half your body weight in ounces gives you your target to consume daily), what if I start by increasing my consumption from 32 to 40? Then maybe 48? An eight-ounce glass a day. Surely I could do that, no problem.  Consistency and playfulness, not perfection.

Pinocchio Penguin with an icicle nose. Playfulness at its best.
Pinocchio Penguin with an icicle nose. Playfulness at its best.

What Simple and Good Enough Might Inspire

What if we accepted 85% rather than 100%? We spend 85% of our time getting that last 15% of any project finished. If we said, “good enough” and put that time toward other things that are more important, how could our lives change? What would happen if, during the holidays, you only sent five cards rather than fifty? Or if you sent gifts a week later than normal? I tried both this year. The earth kept revolving. Which would you prefer, completing THE one most important thing each day, or staring at a list of twenty, stuck, overwhelmed, increasing your blood pressure, and doing nothing? What if you could only make one annual commitment to yourself? What would yours be?

A blog post would not be complete without a shot of my partner-in-climes, Ajax. We go out in all weather, rain or shine, snow or hail.
A blog post would not be complete without a shot of my partner-in-climes, Ajax. We go out in all weather, rain or shine, snow or hail.

Be Willing to Be a Beginner

I’m going to work on changing my mind. Not in a wishy-washy way, but intentionally, to reset neural pathways so that I embrace novelty and change. I want to cultivate a beginner’s mindset for everything I try instead of expecting perfection on the very first try. Nobody shows mastery of anything the first time. It takes more than 10,000 hours to master something!

I’ve spent over twenty-five years learning about wellness and fitness, not web design. As my husband and I revamp our website (with a developer’s help), I know we’re going to make plenty of mistakes. And that’s okay. I embrace, in Carol Dweck’s words, a growth mindset. It might be stressful at times, but if we keep the end goal in mind and see what we can learn in the process, it might be more enjoyable.

Snow falling on the Olympic Hills mascot, the otter, and his enclave, a few blocks from our Seattle home.
Snow falling on the Olympic Hills mascot, the otter, and his enclave, a few blocks from our Seattle home.

Simple and Good Enough Inspires Play

What “good enough” inspires in me is spending more time doing fun, playful things with my family. As an example, over the holidays we got 6-8 inches of snow. I took time out to go sledding the day after Christmas several hours after we got fresh powder. I went cross-country skiing two days later, first thing in the morning before starting my appointments.

As the weather inched up to just above freezing, my husband and I grabbed a few hours to build a Snow Minion. Did I finish all my work those days? Not quite. But holidays are meant to be enjoyed. Did the world fall apart because I was a few days delayed on work? Nope. Did I feel better getting personal joy into the mix? Absolutely.

The author and her husband, creators of Stuart the one-eyed minion from Despicable Me. The snow was not perfect -- it took multiple attempts to get a ball to roll -- but we pounced on the several-hour window of "good enough" warming to make this cute critter. He's not perfect - he's white, not yellow, and his bamboo hair sticks straight up instead of a comb-over, but "he's good enough."
The author and her husband, creators of Stuart the one-eyed minion from Despicable Me. The snow was not perfect — it took multiple attempts to get a ball to roll — but we pounced on the several-hour window of “good enough” conditions to make this cute critter. He’s not perfect – he’s white, not yellow, and his bamboo hair sticks straight up instead of a comb-over, but “he’s good enough.”

So try it yourself. Keep it simple and good enough. Make mistakes and learn from them. Harvest a beginner’s mind and cultivate a growth mindset. And most importantly, let yourself play. May these be the resolutions you carry forward into 2022.

Published by Courtenay Schurman

Co-author of The Outdoor Athlete (2009) and Train to Climb Mt. Rainier or Any High Peak DVD (2002), author of Mountaineering: Freedom of the Hills/conditioning chapter 4 (3 editions), and Peak Performance column for the Mountaineers Mag (2014-present). Member of PNWA, SCBWI, EPIC. Served on the steering committee for WOTS (2019-present). Completed UW Certificate program for Children's Literature and Memoir. Co-owner of Body Results, Inc. in Seattle. Climb leader with Seattle Mountaineers for over 15 years. Volunteer at Woodland Park Zoo since 2014.

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  1. Each evening, I have some moments with myself to review my digital notes and choose the One Big Thing for the next day. I call this my moment of truth when I teeter between my patterned get-lots-of-things-done mode and the more experiential, creative, playful endeavors that live in a different sense of time. I am getting better at “small chunking” of those get-things-done actions and making large time chunks for the One Big Thing. Yet, I notice when all those small chunks accumulate from one day to the next, there is a part of me that talks to the other saying “it’s okay”, my choices are a form of self-care and living life with positive energy, curiosity, vibrancy, learning and love.

    1. Margie, consider this a “work in progress” and I absolutely love the “playful intention” you’re putting toward your self-experimentation. You might find it helpful to enlist the “Five-minute action” that I will be posting about later today, especially around anything that you feel you’re delaying or anxious or fearful about. Even ten percent done consistently will get you to your goal. So use self-compassion, stay playful and curious, and above all, remain loving toward yourself as you try new things. Fear — or avoiding it — is not the way to live; go TOWARD what you want instead of AWAY FROM what you don’t and you’ll have far more positive (and enjoyable!) results. Stay curious and thanks for the comment.

  2. Great post, Court! And I really enjoyed your pictures. Happy New Year!

  3. Happy 2022 to the blog’s author and its readers!
    This is the perfect (ha! ha!) blog post to start the year with, and the snow and ice illustrations are just delightful. There are still loud and bullyish voices inside me proclaiming: “Failure is shameful, not being the best is bad”, etc. There is little doubt, I think, that this one goes to “Nurture” more than to “Nature”… Children would likely never grow up if they were as concerned about mistakes as I’ve been for so long. This new year, however, presents a unique opportunity to rediscover my inner toddler and play different 8-track tapes (!) in my mind: 2022 is retirement year! I intend to play, and make many stupendous messes in the process, with two of my previously “parked” aspirations: acrylic painting and nature photography. I will definitely remember to aim for simplicity and to value each attempt, as “imperfect” as it may seem, for what it is: a bounty of learnings and a worthy achievement in and of itself. Now if I could only tune out these loud voices…

    1. Thanks, Gerard! Nice to see you here! I love the image of relinquishing the inner toddler and letting him out to discover all that you have in front of you this year. Happy Retirement in advance! What a huge milestone! Get messy, get on the ground, look for new perspectives, and laugh lots. Thanks for posting!

  4. Keep it simple and good enough. This will work perfectly for my photo projects. Nothing wrong in trying things multiple times. 85 can be way better than 100. I always like imperfection myself.

    Happy new year, Courtenay. Love this article.

    1. Thanks, Silvie-Marie! Your comment about trying things multiple times rings a bell; didn’t Edison have 999 unsuccessful attempts to make the light bulb work as he envisioned it, before he got it to work? That’s dedication. Persistence. Perseverance. And yes, there are companies who deal in imperfect produce; some of my fondest photos have been, well, mistakes that I liked! So yes, make mistakes and learn from them. All the best and can’t wait to see what we both come up with.

  5. Well done. This whole blog resonated with me. I struggle with perfection and for 2022 I will strive for “good enough”. Thank you.