If you read or listen to material in the self-help genre, you’ll hear a lot about excellence, being and doing your best, and striving for the top of the ladder. I think those are excellent ambitions.

However, there are some things that are worth doing even if you do them badly.


Yes! We all have things we’d like to do that fall into the “want but not a priority” category. Things such as:

  • Learn a foreign language
  • Learn an instrument
  • Get together with “the crew” from your youth
  • Volunteer

While I’m for having a list where you aim for being and doing your best, I’m also for doing things on your want list, even if you do them poorly.


Because you have a finite time in this life, and you can’t do everything exceptionally well.

Trying to do everything at a high level sounds noble, but for many people, it leads to feeling like you’re failing at life even when all the evidence would say that you’re doing well where it truly matters.

When you let go of doing everything at max level, it gives you more energy for the things that truly matter to you. And it makes room for unexpected happiness and fun.

For example, one of my friends has always wanted to learn a foreign language. She just hasn’t wanted it enough to make it a priority.

A couple of years ago, she installed Duolingo on her phone. She doesn’t use the app every day. When things are especially busy with work or family life, she even goes weeks (or months!) without opening it.

Is this the fastest way to learn a language? Of course not. It’s a bad way.

But despite the lack of dedication to excellence, she’s learned enough in two years to be able to pick out pieces of conversation when she’s around others who are fluent.

That makes her happy. And happiness is important. So, even though my friend is taking a poor approach to learning a new language, for her, it’s still worth doing.

Here are examples:

  • The crew – If you can’t make time to Skype or Facetime, record a short video (1-2 minutes, max.) and send it to your crew. Say hi, tell a new joke, or share something going on in your life. Just keep it short and a reflection of you.
  • Learning – Find a cheap way to learn whatever skill it is you’ve always wanted and work at it for 1-5 minutes when you can. YouTube has tons of how-to videos, and there are apps for a surprising number of skills.
  • Volunteering – Next time you’re bored, go to a care facility and ask if any of the residents could use a visitor for an hour. You can bring a deck of cards, a board game, a short book to read to someone, or just your ears and kind heart. No regular commitment is needed, and you’ll make someone’s day.

So, what are you going to pick from your want list and do badly?