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The Best is the Enemy of the Good -- A plea to end the "Best Quest"
by Istar Schwager, Ph.D.

At a recent parenting workshop I asked the people assembled if anyone had heard the expression “The best is the enemy of the good?” The only person to raise his hand was a dad who said he had the phrase tacked to his office wall. He wisely explained that he’d found in business that the people who believe they have the best answer, best solution or best product are the ones who stop listening and learning. This was an aspect of the expression I hadn’t considered, but made wonderful sense.

Today “best” has gone beyond being a mere marketing claim to become the real life goal of many parents who seek the “best” stroller; the “best” preschool or the “best” toy. The best is, by definition singular. Only one thing can be the best -- or at least the VERY best. By definition, everything that’s not the best is deemed inferior. And parents, thinking that there IS a “best” out there, if they can only find it, are driving themselves nuts searching for the best after school program or sports activity or camp or sneakers – often spending money they don’t have. Every kid is different, and what is great for one kid may not be for another. The stress and strain of being on a constant “best quest” takes a heavy toll. So I wish that parents would stop comparing, and focus on defining their own criteria and standards. “Good enough” is not a cop out. It takes real judgment to know if a school program is truly solid, a toy is engaging, or an activity actually suits the child who is going to be participating. As that dad said, best is singular and crowds out much that is worthy. Good is a sensible goal, and often much more meaningful.

© 2005 by Dr. Istar Schwager. All Rights Reserved
Reprint with permission only

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