Why We Need More Reflection on Enough

We live in a world of more and abundance. What happened to being content with enough?

Recently, I tweeted this:

I’ve been thinking a lot about what “Enough” means for my life and business. If I don’t know where there is, how can I get there?

The reactions to this statement were interesting. One reaction was that asking someone to be, have, or do less than they can is too much to ask. Another was that we can’t assume a “there” even exists.

Sufficiency and Abundance Are Incompatible. Right?

What fascinates me when I talk about sufficiency is there’s always some pushback against the idea. The immediate thing that many people hear is that I’m advancing a scarcity mindset. The idea seems to be that sufficiency and abundance can’t play well with each other, even though I’ve never said as much.

Perhaps I do have a scarcity mindset. Our time and energy is finite. We walk on this earth for a while, and then we don’t. Similarly, stars form, burn, and die, either in a cold death or in a supernova.

At the same time, our energy lives on. Those we touch that follow after us carry the effects of our lives with them. Our remains return back to the ground or sky. And those stars that die set the conditions for new galaxies and stellar developments.

More Contentment, Please

Less abstractly, though, contentment comes from what we have being enough for us. In a world of more, bigger, faster, and stronger, this is hard to hear, but at the same time, we live in a world where technological and social progress hasn’t yielded a commensurate amount of progress in our contentment. We gave up a few things when we gained abundance.

I’m blessed to work with thought leaders, peak performers, and people who are making a difference in small and big ways. My role is to help them tap into their potential so they flourish. The key word in that last sentence, though, is flourish. I routinely guide my clients and friends to do less in one domain so they can do more in another; rather than spending the weekend working to grow their business, say, I’ll ask them to spend time with their families or get out for the weekend. The point of all the striving and effort is to flourish, not just to be on the endless pursuit of more.

What happens nine times out of ten is that they come back to whatever they’re doing refreshed, whole, and able to engage and get some great work done. Thus the apparent paradox: by doing less, they’re able to do more.

Contentment and Growth

A worry that some people have is that being content would keep them from innovating, growing, and actualizing their potential. The idea here seems to be that contentment and creative tension can’t coexist together — much like how sufficiency and abundance aren’t consistent with each other. Notice the pattern here?

The counter-intuitive truth is that knowing that we already have enough is what allows us to take steps more confidently than we can when we’re operating from deficiency, especially when those steps will have second- and third-order effects we can’t see. This bears out equally in the patience of strategic thinkers to the willingness of people to give to charity when they feel they have enough to the ability to step back from a day’s work knowing that we’ve done our daily tasks. Knowing that we are or have done enough, we can be or do more.

Yet Another Flux

Like other dyadic forces in our lives such as possibility and actuality, we’re in constant flux between scarcity and abundance. It’s striking how much time, energy, and attention we spend in figuring out how to get more and how little we spend getting clear about what our enough point is. As convenient and easy as a simple either/or picture around scarcity and abundance is, the more accurate and challenging picture is that it’s both. Hence the need for some reflection on enough.

Look at the different realms of your life. What would it feel like to be content with your body? To be satisfied emotionally? To be comfortable socially? To be mentally still and focused? To be financially secure? To feel spiritually whole?

If these things sound desirable to you, it’s contentment and sufficiency you’re seeking. Knowing the “what” empowers you to figure out the “how.”

Charlie Gilkey is an author, business advisor, and podcaster who teaches people how to start finishing what matters most. Click here to get more tools that’ll help you be a productive, flourishing co-creator of a better tomorrow.