Okay vs Good vs Great

A few weeks ago, I was in a meeting about our startup. The person we were talking too, asked us how many customers we would need to feel “okay.” And then how many we would need to feel “good.” He had a couple of points behind this exercise. One being, do you even have a collective goal (answer = no). And the other, being it’s good to have a staggered set of goals.

In my post on Friday, when I talked about how much I still need to write and oh my god the deadline is so quickly approaching, I wrote about how much I’d like to get done before Christmas. I mentioned that the least (the okay goal) was to get two done. The good goal was to get three, and great goal would be four.

I see goals in terms of black or white. You either reached it or you didn’t. There is no shades of grey. So having a staggered set of goals introduces some shading. Okay, so you didn’t hit your great goal, but you did manage to make your okay and good, so it’s not failure.

However, when doing this, it’s important to do a few things:

  1. Your okay goal still needs to be a goal. If you can do nothing and make your okay goal, then you’re still setting yourself up for failure (even though you’ll succeed on the goal). It needs to be something that you have to work towards.
  2. You actually have to feel okay if you only manage to reach your okay goal. If achieving your okay goal (but not above) makes you feel crappy, you didn’t set your okay goal high enough. I’m sure that sounds odd, but a success will only feel like a success if it’s at a level you’re going to be happy with.
  3. On the other hand, your great goal needs to be achievable. So while my great goal could’ve been “finish the entire first draft,” I knew that wasn’t realistic/achievable. And you want to know that it’s possible to make it to your great goal. Don’t get me wrong, it’s going to require work, but it’s an amount of work that is possible/realistic/probable.
  4. The goals need to build off of each other. The okay goal is the baseline. The good goal should be the okay’s goals + something new. And the great goal is the good goal + something new again. If they conflict, then you no longer have a “ladder” of goals that you can make your way up, as working harder at your good goal could be in conflict with achieving your great goal.

I will say, I’m much better at looking at my research in these terms, then I am the startup stuff. But I’m working on it. And I know it’s helped lower my expectations on myself. I no longer think that I will have failed if I don’t have a complete draft by Christmas (partly because I’ve already ruled that out). But I do know what I need to do in order to feel like I’ve succeeded (which means writing those two chapters to start with).

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2 thoughts on “Okay vs Good vs Great

  1. I just found your blog and I love it. I definitely experience the desire to always reach the “great” goal, and it becomes a problem. You remind me of myself. Although I’m an undergrad in mechanical engineering, this is my second bachelor’s degree so my experience is a bit different from a traditional student. Looking forward to reading more of your posts. Check out my blog if you have time!

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