Sufficing is one of the more common strategies we use in making decisions but… it’s a tricky beast.


Sufficing used wisely and consciously to balance a limited budget, assigning a hierarchy of criteria to parts of a project or task, or finding that despite your very best efforts the Universe has decided that you need a big pile of “oh my stars!” and you need to re-arrange your crafty and finely laid plans. —

But when sufficing becomes a primary filter or unconscious habit, there may be problems. When sufficing becomes the cover story for keeping low standards or stretch goals (avoiding disappointment, fear of failure, embarrassment, lack of confidence, etc.) – the virtue of sufficing turns into a vice.

“But I’m being economical and thrifty; surely that’s a good thing.” Absolutely. No argument there… but only you can come to know whether it is a virtue for virtue’s sake, or as a distraction from other concerns.

At the highest level, sufficing asks:

“what is the minimum acceptable necessary and SUFFICIENT qualities for an output that allows me to say ‘we’re done here’?”

It favors resources that are on hand and available for re-purposing so, in a kind of backward way, it seeks to optimize with available resources, adjusting the goal or target criteria down to match more immediately accessible resources.

As you can imagine sufficing is a tool with a slippery downside. It is very easy to become habituated to dropping standards for lack of adequate planning, preparation, or management.

On the other hand, active management of one’s process is often a matter of dealing with what comes up while “keeping the show on the road”.

If you are cowering in shame… I’ll let you off the hook a bit. In a manufacturing process, where all the inputs, processes and outputs are relatively fixed, sufficing is not usually necessary.

The greater the number of VARIABLES that shift or change in a process; the greater one’s reliance of sufficing becomes.

In the people world – if your schedule of activities is relatively patterned and consistent; it is easier to plan adequately for what may arise.

The greater the variation in your day-to-day activities; the more you must rely on sufficing and “Kung Fu power moves” in your work practices.

The question is: Are your life and workflow habits crafted in service of your goals, or are you crafting your goals to fit a habituated life and workflow?

You may have everything under control and wondrously regulated but… if you are unfulfilled by how you are living; change may be in order.

You may be Mr. or Ms. Free-As-A-Bird – you do what you want when you want to but… are you actually getting anywhere that’s worth getting to?

Oh yes, you are free and easy… but is that it? Is that exactly what you want?

Would you be able to take on more complex activities promising more fulfilling results?

Yes, I’m sure you imagine you can but… the weight of habituation can be perversely strong and, depend on how heavily you allowed the patterns of not managing actively to run your system; the learning curve could be very steep indeed.

For either over-sufficers or low-sufficers (and for any other habituated pattern or mechanism in your system now), fortunately at any moment you can choose and begin to change – even “radical change” – and results will accumulate quite rapidly BUT you will have to sacrifice certain things consistently:

  • ease and familiarity for fun and satisfaction
  • your old narrative of identity (containing cover stories that make not doing, not achieving, not enjoying more okay), for novelty and the frisson of becoming someone else in your narratives (“I used to be the kind of person who… but now I’m the kind of person who does this other thing.”)
  • being “the expert you” in your old system vs. “the beginner you” in your new system.

It’s actually great fun and incredibly satisfying to be better and better… not in your imagination or “affirmations”… but in reality.

From your lists from the previous episode on sufficing vs optimizing, have a second look at where you suffice habitually and consider where and if your sufficing is purely about the benefits and virtues of sufficing, or more as part of a nefarious and crafty system of unconsciousness, keeping yourself from looking at bigger games, keeping you bound to ease and familiarity rather than better and greater.

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