5.12. Good Enough? Or Push for More?

When there’s a policy up for debate, and it kind of does what you want but not entirely…what do you do?

When there’s a policy up for debate, and it kind of does what you want but not entirely…what do you do?

Do you support it anyway, in spite of its minor flaws or imperfections?

Or do you insist that it isn’t good enough, and needs to do more?

This is one of the toughest dilemmas in the field of social change.

It’s caused by the tension between idealism and pragmatism, between what’s best and what’s actually possible.

Nobody wants to abdicate, sacrifice, sell out, or sell short their most cherished values and beliefs.

But nor is it a good thing to make the perfect the enemy of the good, to give up a chance to move things forward as far as they can actually go in reality, because we’re too attached to an illusory fantasy that was never going to happen anyway.

I can’t tell you how to resolve this dilemma.

No one can. Because there are too many changing unknowns, too many situational variables that go into whether it’s best to support an imperfect policy or to hold out for more.

But I can say this much:

In different times and places, one of these strategies can become overused.

And there’s no doubt that nowadays we’re overusing the unrealistic, overly idealistic, hold-out-for-more strategy.

Partly that’s because politics has become such a bitterly contested, zero-sum battle, in which conceding even an inch is seen as aiding the enemy.

Partly that’s because we have our own politicians, our own media, and our own social media feeds pounding that strategy into our heads over and over again.

And partly that’s because, as far as these two strategies go, it’s easier, more invigorating, and more gratifying to play the tough, righteous warrior—demanding perfection, and accusing everyone content with less of not being as pure or committed as you are.

We don’t talk or think enough about benefits of incremental progress, collaboration, and consensus-building…or the liabilities of stubbornness, tribalism, and perpetual division and dysfunction.

In my mind, neither of these two strategies is inherently better than the other.

The goal is to get the best outcome possible. If this is the best we can do, right here and now, then we should support that. If we have good reason to believe we can do more, then we should demand more.

But it concerns me a lot that decrying everything as “Not good enough!” has become an automatic reaction for so many passionate, well-intentioned people.

It concerns me a lot that in this time of unprecedented divisions, we’re doubling down on the strategy that divides, instead of investing more in the strategy that unites.

It concerns me a lot that instead of debating what really matters—what’s actually possible, and whether we’re doing the best we can within those limitations—we’re arguing instead over ideological purity.

Nobody seems to be doing anything about this—yet it’s critically important to getting out of this mess we’re in.

What are you going to do about it?


This is the 88th in a series of over 150 videos about how to create real, lasting social change. Click here for a list of all titles, videos, and transcripts.

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