How Much is Enough? How Do We Stop Chasing More?
“Birds make great sky circles of their freedom.
How do they learn that?
They fall, and falling, they’re given wings.”
– Rumi (in Barks, 2003)
How much is enough?
One way to feel happier and more fulfilled is to seek greater life balance, recognizing that happiness is not somewhere out there, but rather it’s possible to be happy right here, right now.
Psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl (1959) is quoted as saying: “It is the very pursuit of happiness that thwarts happiness.”
Recently, a client I coach raised the topic of enoughness, a topic I’ve been pondering the past few months in my own life. True confession…even as I consider this question of how much is enough, I find myself wandering to the kitchen grabbing another square of dark chocolate. The two pieces consumed already this morning don’t feel like enough. Like you, I am a work in progress.
Recognizing enoughness may not come naturally to many of us – knowing that we can be OK not doing something, not acquiring something, not controlling something.
Are you seduced by what might come after or frequently striving for more? More productivity? More money? More food? A better body? More books, shoes, or tchotchkes? How new does your car have to be? How many vacations? The list could be endless.
What is enough?
According to pioneering author Geneen Roth (2010; 2020): “Enough is not a quantity…It’s a relationship to what you already have. Treat yourself as if you already are enough. Walk as if you are enough. See, look, listen as if you are enough. Because it’s true.”
For many of us it can feel like happiness is just around the corner, if only we can get a little more, or do a little more. What if we let ourselves know we are enough and have enough right now? That we are enough physically, emotionally, spiritually?
Being present to enoughness can empower us to feel happier right now. This posture offers glimpses into knowing that we already are enough, that we already have enough, that we already do enough.
Many spiritual traditions teach that we are innately enough, simply because we exist. The Buddhist eightfold path, teaches about right effort. This concept can be understood as the middle way, learning to be present – not too tightly, not too loosely. Enough to nourish, but not to overfill. Perhaps we can enjoy enoughness in a way that feels adequate, without longing for more than our share. Franciscan tradition teaches that there’s enough for everyone and to embrace simplicity letting go of wanting more (CAC, 2021). Jewish tradition teaches the concept of dayenu, it would have been enough, reminding us to appreciate all that we have and to be thankful for life as a whole.
🌷 There are many ways to affirm enoughness and strengthen fulfillment. Here are some ideas…
1 – Be kind to yourself. Give yourself time to breathe, to rest, to soften to the moment with greater self-compassion and love. Embrace your human right to balance accepting and taking care of yourself with taking action beyond yourself. Psychologist Kristen Neff, PhD, (2021) calls this creating a caring force as we seek a balance between the tender self-compassion of accepting ourselves with the fierce self-compassion of taking action out in the world.
2 – Embrace yourself with a growth mindset, and then connect with others with a similar “glass half full” perspective. Your mindset can have a powerful impact on your life. Stanford University researcher Carol Dweck, PhD, (2016) studies mindset and her powerful findings offer the insight that people with a growth mindset are able to learn more effectively and overcome life’s challenges. Along these lines, an abundance mindset may empower you to see life’s possibilities, noticing more choices and opportunities, and recognizing that in many ways there is enough for everyone.
3 – Let yourself recognize enoughness by strengthening your gratitude muscle. Gratitude can be one of the biggest scaffolds toward a sense of enoughness (VanderWeele, 2020). Thankfulness for what has been shared with you, who you are, and what you do is linked to happiness and well-being. Pausing during the day to recognize what you do have, what has gone well today, to be thankful for this life whatever it brings.
4 – Savor the moment as you pause to notice the good stuff. As I find myself in the second half of my life, I am coming to believe that we are not meant to be always striving. This awareness is a path I’m traveling rather than a destination I’ve reached – setting an intention to be present and notice now – to breathe and cultivate greater appreciation for what is happening right now. Termed savoring, pausing to pay attention to this moment – this loving connection, this astounding insight, this nanosecond of clarity, this kind gesture, this meaningful act can be seen as an act of recognizing enoughness and an opportunity to stop running after more.
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- Barks, C. (2003). Rumi: The book of love: Poems of ecstasy and longing. New York, NY: Harper San Francisco.
- Dweck, C. (2016). What having a “growth mindset” actually means, Harvard Business Review.
- Frankl, V. (1959). Man’s search for meaning. New York, NY: Washington Square Press.
- Neff, K. (2021). Fierce self-compassion.
- Roth, G. (2020). 101 best Geneen Roth quotes of all time.
- Roth G. (2010). Women, food and God: An unexpected path to almost everything. New York, NY: Scribner.
- VanderWeele, T.J. (2020). Activities for flourishing: An evidence-based guide. Journal of Positive Psychology & Wellbeing 4(1), 79-91.
- The Center for Action and Contemplation – CAC (2021)
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Ilene Berns-Zare, PsyD, PCC, CMC (ICF Credentialed) is an Executive and Personal Coach and Speaker. Ilene helps people live their best personal and professional lives by bringing mind, body, and spirit into flow with strengths, purpose, and potential. She inspires clients to find fresh perspectives and access their full potential as creative, resourceful, whole persons. Find Ilene online, set up a free discovery coaching consultation, and access free resources at https://ibzcoaching.com/.
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