Lower the Bar.

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I only saw it once, and I can’t find it now online, alas, but I’ve never forgotten an old Saturday Night Live skit from many years ago. One of the characters, playing a frustrated swinger, says “Ladies, ladies, ladies! You’ve got to lower your standards.”

I’ve often invoked that mantra—”Lower your standards“—when I find that there’s a resolution that I really want to keep, but for some reason, don’t seem to be able to keep. Recently, I’ve changed the wording to “Lower the bar.” “Lower your standards” suggests that I’m embracing mediocrity; “lower the bar” suggests that I’m clearing away hurdles.

For instance, I’m in four books groups—a regular book group and three children’s/YA literature reading groups (a lot, I know!). In each of these groups, we take turns meeting for dinner at each other’s houses. I serve take-out Chinese food and store-bought cookies—because if I raised the bar any higher, I might feel like I couldn’t handle belonging to so many groups. The imperfect dinner that I serve is better than the perfect dinner I never serve.

Similarly, with exercise, I have a very low bar. I’m a natural couch-potato, but by allowing myself to do very manageable work-outs, I’ve been able to turn myself into a regular exerciser. The moderate forty-minute work-out I do several times a week is better than the rigorous work-out I never do. I wanted to keep a journal of my family life, but I knew I wouldn’t keep up with it; I lowered the bar and now faithfully keep a one-sentence journal. A journal entry of one sentence a day is better than three pages never.

Voltaire wrote, “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.” When I find myself backing away from something that I want to do, I try lowering the bar, and it helps.

From 2006 through 2014, as she wrote The Happiness Project and Happier at Home, Gretchen chronicled her thoughts, observations, and discoveries on The Happiness Project Blog.



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