What is Enough?
What does it mean to be enough, measuring happiness, and when to say no to more work.
For over 100 years, the weight of a kilogram was defined by a rock in a museum. Seriously. Societies around the world looked to a rock to determine when they had enough rice in a bag or if their diet was working.
Today, we have more precise tools to measure a kilogram, but the concept of “enough” can still be elusive. For better or worse, you’re left to your own devices to decide what enough is in your life—and that can feel like an exhausting mix of work and projects and endless voices calling for “more.”
My Egyptian parents immigrated to America because it was the land of opportunity. Their idea of enough was three boys who would become doctors, lawyers, or engineers and make big families. None of that came true. But my mom still loves us and I’m sure my dad is looking down with a smirk on his face in between his tennis matches with Sinatra. Even though we didn’t match their expectations, everything turned out just fine.
What is enough for you? What is your glass encased rock that you use to measure your life, work, relationships, and bank account?
If you’re feeling frazzled, stretched, or unsure how to see your next steps clearly, keep a few things in mind:
The Tyranny of More
No matter your path, you will feel a sense of “not enough” throughout your life. You won’t have enough money. Or time. Or talent. If only there was just a little bit more of (insert your muse) and you’ll finally achieve your goal of happiness, peace, eternal bliss. This is the Tyranny of More.
Without a definition of “enough” everything in your life will feel like a constant climb. If you would have told me when I was twenty-five that I would be where I am today, I would have either laughed in your face or hugged you and then invested in Bitcoin. And yet, I have the same voices you may have — voices that can seem to fuel a “career drive,” but really, they deplete contentment and energy.
Everyone Needs Different Things
Some people want to have it all. Others want simple lives. There’s no right answer. In fact, there’s no answer at all. You choose how you respond to the cards you’ve been given. And you can manage your wants. Accepting that will save you from a lot of mental pain.
Determine What You’ll Measure
What do you want to put on your life’s scale? Is it your health? Then measure how many days you exercised and meditated? Is it your relationships? Then look at your week and measure how much time you spent with the ones you love most? Your bank account? Measure how you save, invest, and what you decide to spend on.
If you don’t decide what to measure, the world will tell you what you’re worth (hint: it’s *never* enough).
Where is Enough?
As you’re trying to decide what and how you’ll measure, you may look to others for examples. But be sure to examine all sides of their lives. You can’t look at that obscenely rich CEO without also examining their relationships or their health. Still, there is no external metric for enough. For me, that 1kg rock is nestled somewhere behind my diaphragm—right in the center of my chest. And I feel it most when I take time to regularly pause and check in. Your measurement won’t just be in your head or on some excel sheet, it’ll be felt in your body.
The Magic Mindsets of Gratitude & Perspective
As you begin to define enough for yourself, there are two mindsets that will make this a joyful experience. Gratitude is the act of taking inventory of everything you already have. Doing this often helps you realize how little you need.
Perspective is the act of zooming out and seeing how small you are and how much there is of whatever you think you need. Specifically, there is plenty to go around. This is often referred to as scarcity mindset vs abundance mindset. The former leads to desperation and anxiety, the latter leads to hope.
Living in “Enough”
This isn’t a one-and-done practice. What you decide as enough when you’re 25 will change a thousand times by the time you turn 35, 45, and so on. Instead, make it a regular check-in. Use big life decisions (job offers, moves, furthering your education) or certain milestones (birthdays, new years, anniversary), or wherever you journal/write. Practice gratitude often and learn to celebrate when you feel the scales in balance.
Chances are, you have exactly what you need for today, and that’s amazing.
PS: This was written as part of a weekly newsletter called Wednesday Words. You’re only seeing part of the magic here. Receive the full issue in your inbox at: bit.ly/wednesdaywords
Illustration by: Tatiana Panova