Timeless Inspiration: 80 Percent is Good Enough

Have you ever felt that you are too much of a perfectionist?

That the things on your to-do list seem overwhelming, but you cannot be happy until they are all done, and only then can you sleep well at night?

If so, this story from a Zen Buddhist temple in Japan could be the inspiration you need.

The story goes that a monk was busy trying to rake the leaves that his master had told him to rake, and he kept raking and raking and trying to make it as clean as possible.

However, a gust of wind inevitably blew some of the leaves back. And he thought to himself ‘I’m trying hard, i must be perfect for the cleanliness of the monastery.’

His Zen master happened to walk by and asked him “Are you okay?”

And he said, “Yes master but i’m trying to rake these leaves and every time I rake them a gust of wind blows them back and i don’t seem to be able to make it perfect.”

And the Zen priest said:

“It’s okay. Eighty percent is good enough.”

And he walked away. His words calmed the Zen monk, helping him relax and think, ‘well, eighty percent is good enough.’

It might be counter-intuitive to what you may think happens in the Zen temples in Japan, but 80 percent really is good enough, because our mind can finally relax and say, ‘well that’s good enough.’

If you have a to-do list of ten things and you achieve eight of ten, put the remaining two to the next list, to tomorrow’s list.

So what about you? Do you think you can apply this principle to your life?

For example, if you believe that 80 percent is good enough, you might try your best, try hard, but do not over-stress, don’t overwhelm, don’t have anxiety.

There is no need to be perfect, even according to the Zen temple monks, who are very dedicated to cleaning and cleanliness is one of their highest virtues.

So enjoy the day and never forget: 80 percent is good enough.

At MaArtial, we distill timeless philosophy into practical modern rituals. These can be used to boost self-confidence, improve health, and even find serenity.

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