Learning To Do Less
More Good May Be More Bad
Last night as I willingly poisoned myself scrolling through Facebook, reading links about President-Elect Donald Trump and his obvious conflicts between running our country free from foreign interests and personal profiteering, I wondered: Why? Why does Trump continue to build hotels everywhere? When is enough? What brings him joy, and a feeling of satisfaction?
Trump has more than enough wealth to retire — live the American dream, relax on the beach, and enjoy friends and family with umbrella cocktails. One thing is for certain, he does not need to or have to work, but he is driven to continue adding more and more to his plate.
In one of those flashing moments, I got it. I recognized my own struggles with “enoughness”! I recognized I share the behavioral symptoms of what I call the “More” disease with Trump.
The “More” disease is rarely recognized. We laud the behavioral symptoms of “More” as exemplary leadership and business skills. We call proponents high-achievers and name them competitive. The disease thrives through our active participation in capitalism that is seeded in our education system. We teach children everyday through our schools and advertisements that they need to do more, be more, and have more, to not only be happy and satisfied, but more powerfully oppressive is the message that they need more to belong, that whatever they already are or have is not enough…yet. This disease is killing us with stress related deaths and poverty driven homicide. A global climate crisis is bringing us to the brink of mass extinction — all because of our desire for more.
I never imagined I could relate to Donald Trump. As a working mother, and artist who grew up on welfare, who is an environmentalist, liberal, anti-racist, lover of gay’s and they’s, anti-capitalist, pro-choice person, I’ve felt distant from him. But, I see we suffer from the same ailment, and while my intentions blossom in the direction of generosity, they are rooted in the same contaminated soil as Trump’s. We believe more is better, more is needed, and we must do more, be more, and have more to feel satisfied.
I am passionately mission led, often times prioritizing social and spiritual capital over cash capital. I find myself voluntarily working close to 70hrs a week in education and arts related leadership positions, while also pursuing an MFA in Interdisciplinary Studies focusing on Socially Engaged Art, and participating in a business leadership fellowship, called ‘The Good Work Fellowship’.
On the outside I look like I’m doing good work, and I am. However, on the inside I am suffocating by the lack of space I’ve created as a result of my affliction of “More”. Recently I worked with a leadership coach, Nicole Devereaux to help support me as I lifted Instar Lodge, a mixed-use art space, from my imagination into the realm of being. She was there as a weekly mirror reflecting back to me that I could do the heavy lifting and walk through insane levels of fear, which I did. Two things she said lodged themselves into me and have continued to pulse. She said to ask myself “When is good the enemy of best?” and that “We act in accordance with what we believe.”
As I have continued to say “yes” to more good work in the past couple years I have not cut anything back. Instead I have inflated the parameters of what I believe I should be doing. I have extended my limits at the cost of what’s best for me. The belief that is running my organism into a spun-out cycle of exhaustion and sickness is that “I must keep doing more for others so I can be invited in. I must keep building my resume bigger and more impressive so I can be given a seat at the table. I must keep learning more, so I can say what I want to say. I must have more nice things so I can be proud of my position. I must work harder to do more good work.” The sickness or disease of “More” perpetuates the actions of investing my creative energies into the production of more good work, leading me on to attempt to satisfy a hunger for “enoughness” that will never be satisfied. Clearly the cure is to do more with less.
In the ‘Good Work Fellowship’, (a fellowship of community leaders, entrepreneurs and creative change makers in the Hudson River Watershed) Mathew Stinchcomb, the executive director, often says he sees businesses trying to do less bad as they grow, he encourages a model of enterprise that does more good, while doing no harm as it grows. At the upcoming graduation ceremony we are asked to present our commitments to self, enterprise, and place as the ambassadors of the fellowship.
Thinking of Matt’s motto of “Do more good, do no harm.” and Nicole’s question of “When is good the enemy of best?” along with my most recent self-directed MFA course that investigated an artistic practice that included self-care as art work, I recognize what my commitment needs to be. Through responsible actions and rigorous inquiry I will work to dismantle my beliefs that I need to do more good to be good. I will do less, by asking for help to create a sustainable regenerative practice that celebrates self-care and spaciousness as foundational to thrive.
The poet Rumi said, “The cure for the pain is in the pain.” When I find myself exhausted, late at night scrolling through Facebook and see myself reflected back in Donald Trump, I recognize the criticality of finding the cure. The time is now to radically fight the disease of “More”.