I'm looking for a word that would allow me to describe the willingness to settle for what there is, to accept status quo, instead of wanting something better.

It's the attitude that makes people use the aphorism "perfect is the enemy of good" to justify mediocrity.

Sample sentence:

The prevalence of [word] among engineers is why our industry produces so much substandard software.

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    Just to point out: Complacency is a great answer to the title question. BUT, it is not the attitude behind the quote "Perfect is the enemy of good"... – Jim Dec 21 '17 at 21:20
  • @Jim See the footnote to my answer and the Exchange OP and I had about it in the comments of that answer. – Dan Bron Dec 21 '17 at 21:27
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    I suspect a lot of confusion over this question is coming from a misunderstanding of the "perfect is the enemy of good" aphorism: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perfect_is_the_enemy_of_good supports which doesn't correlate with that mentality leading to 'substandard software'. The aphorism is critical to the pursuit of perfection as being unattainable and therefore never done, whereas your example suggests that not pursuing perfection leads to low standards and it should be something aspired to. – Danikov Dec 22 '17 at 10:36
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    Would it be fair to say "misuse" instead of "use" in It's the attitude that makes people misuse the aphorism "perfect is the enemy of good" to justify mediocrity. – Guy Schalnat Dec 22 '17 at 16:54
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    One word for ‘settling for good enough’ is satisficing. – Anton Sherwood Dec 23 '17 at 5:16

From Cambridge:


noun, UK ​ /kəmˈpleɪ.sən.si/ US ​ /kəmˈpleɪ.sən.si/ also complacence, disapproving

a feeling of calm satisfaction with your own abilities or situation that prevents you from trying harder

What annoys me about these girls is their complacency - they seem to have no desire to expand their horizons.

There's no room for complacency if we want to stay in this competition!

This is the usual accusation lobbed at those who prefer the imperfect status quo over the effort, pain, and risk involved in change¹.

When I was in 5th grade history class, I vividly remember a turn of phrase our teacher used to describe Socrates' attitude towards the Athens that had accused him of corrupting the youth and sentenced him to death:

Socrates was the gadfly sent to rouse Athens from its slumber of complacency

That turn of phrase has stuck with me until today.

¹ That said, I think you are misinterpreting the philosophy advocated by the aphorism "perfect is the enemy of good". That advice does agitate for change!

What it's warning against is the paralysis or torpor induced by considering what it would take to create "perfection" -- a torpor that flows against the motivation to make any change at all towards "good".

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    You're absolutely right about the nature of the aphorism. My objections stem from the widespread abuse of it in defense of complacency. What was once a warning against seeking unachievable goals has been increasingly co-opted by those who seek to defend their mediocrity. Perhaps I should edit my question? – Vojislav Stojkovic Dec 21 '17 at 21:04
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    @VojislavStojkovic You may edit if you like, but don't feel any obligation. I just happen to like putting little footnotes in my answers, to make them more interesting. Kinda like a bonus. – Dan Bron Dec 21 '17 at 21:06
  • I don't feel this fits the question as stated, even if it's the word that was being sought. Complacency implies a lack of self-criticism, it's the result of neglect. The question seems to suggest a more considered attitude that actively identifies and accepts 'good enough' over perfection, which is definitely not complacent. – Danikov Dec 22 '17 at 10:29


lack of interest, enthusiasm, or concern.

"widespread apathy among students"

synonyms: indifference, lack of interest, lack of enthusiasm, lack of concern, unconcern, uninterestedness, unresponsiveness, impassivity, dispassion, lethargy, languor, ennui;

The prevalence of apathy among engineers is why our industry produces so much substandard software.

I don't agree that "willingness to accept status quo" is behind "perfect is the enemy of good" though. The phrase "perfect is the enemy of good" means that you shouldn't spend too much time trying to make something perfect because then you'll never making anything at all.

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The prevalence of contentedness among engineers is why our industry produces so much substandard software.


Engineers are contented with half measures, which is why our industry produces so much substandard software.

Contentedness (or Contented)


1.1 Willing to accept something; satisfied.

‘I was never contented with half measures’

‘he had to be content with third place’

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In-keeping with nature of the amorphism "perfect is the enemy of good" and the definition "willingness to accept the status quo" I would propose the word pragmatic.


adjective, UK ​ /præɡˈmæt.ɪk/, US ​/præɡˈmæt̬.ɪk/

​ solving problems in a sensible way that suits the conditions that really exist now, rather than obeying fixed theories, ideas, or rules

In business, the pragmatic approach to problems is often more successful than an idealistic one.

While it omits an explicit relationship to the status quo and instead focuses on the willingness to be practical instead of idealistic, the sentiment broadly resembles the amorphism.

However, in relationship to the given example, it is a poor fit and Dan Bron's complacency is a better answer.

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Laissez-faire. Not English, another example of borrowed words, but gets the point across.

I don't have any more research than confirming the definition of laissez-faire in The Cambridge Dictionary online:


noun, UK ​ /ˌleɪ.seɪˈfeər/, US ​/ˌleɪ.seɪˈfer/ ​> unwillingness to get involved in or influence other people's activities

The problems began long before he became CEO, but they worsened with his laissez-faire approach/attitude.

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  • Welcome to EL&U. Please add references to support your answer. – Rupert Morrish Dec 21 '17 at 19:35
  • Since you said you used the definition from Cambridge online, I quoted that definition directly in your answer, so that it can stand alone and people can evaluate its merits and the applicability of laissez-faire to this context without having to leave the site. That said, I think the word doesn't fit. – Dan Bron Dec 21 '17 at 20:42
  • I think the dictionary definition might be holding this one back, laissez-faire seems quite apt for describing a non-interventionist attitude and has less direct negative connotations that make it more appropriate in support of 'perfect is the enemy of good'. – Danikov Dec 22 '17 at 10:24
  • This laissez-faire world of engineering we live in is due to the blase attitude of all the people who work in the sector that have a wrongfully conceited sense of ennui. – Mazura Dec 23 '17 at 16:19

Honestly, I think that complacency is good enough and I would go for that.

Unless you were prepared to rewrite the phrase,

The lack of ambition|commitment|drive among engineers is why our industry produces so much substandard software.

it seems to me that there are few viable options for "doing the work to the bare minimum requirements, but no more" except - perhaps - awkward terms such as lackadaisicalness:

lack·a·dai·si·cal (lăk′ə-dā′zĭ-kəl) adj.

  1. Characterized by a lack of effort, care, or involvement
  2. Lacking enthusiasm or interest; listless; casually lazy
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