Why we need the Art of Enough.
Picture the scene. I am sitting opposite Kate, a senior leader whom I am coaching. She is telling me that despite her external success and glittering career path, nothing she does can make her feel good enough. No matter how hard she works or how many accolades she receives (which are plentiful), she cannot shake her fear that she is an imposter—waiting to be discovered.
This drives her to work relentlessly to achieve a goal that never feels within reach. Kate is stuck in a mindset convinced that she lacks what she needs. She has no permission to rest and her inner landscape is full of fear. A serial overachiever, she is tired, and nothing she does takes her insecurity away. In her mind, she simply cannot be enough.
Now let’s zoom in on James. James is working from home during one of the COVID-19 lockdowns. He has a demanding job and lives in a two-bedroom flat with his wife and their one-year-old son. James describes his working life to me: he is at his desk by seven a.m., has back-to-back online meetings throughout the day, during which a stream of emails fill his inbox. He takes an hour to be with his wife and son in the early evening before returning to work late into the evening. He feels overwhelmed by the volume and complexity of what he has to do and unable to give himself permission to stop either. Understandably, James is nearly burnt out with tiredness. It’s as if he can never do enough.
And then, let’s turn our focus to our planet. “Our house is on fire,” Greta Thunburg said at Davos in 2019. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report released in October 2018 gives our planet just 12 years to radically alter our carbon usage and emissions to stem catastrophic climate change. Our oceans are now host to plastic islands the size of countries. We are at the start of the “sixth mass extinction” where thousands of habitats and species are on the verge of extinction driven by ecocide. And yet, our response as individuals, societies, and institutions is not creating change at sufficient speed. It’s as if we don’t know how to stop. We can’t seem to have enough.
These stories aren’t unusual. I’ve worked to support people and teams for over 12 years. People working hard to give the best of themselves to the businesses, universities, charities, institutions, and governments they work for. And what I’ve noticed is that so many people are out of balance. It’s as if we are on a seesaw the whole time, swinging between too much and not enough—oscillating from one extreme to another. Our inner lives tormented by a lack of inner balance, our outer lives swamped by complexity whilst at a meta level, the very ecosystem of our planet is pushed to a breaking point.
I believe that finding the Art of Enough from the inside out is the challenge of our age.
This book attempts to explore these three fundamental questions:
1. Why are we so out of balance in so many areas of our lives?
2. How can we find a way of leading our 21-century lives fruitfully within the limits of enough?
3. What becomes possible for us when we learn to be, do, and have enough?
What is enough?
Here’s what I mean by enough. Enough is a state of being and a way of living. With enough, we learn how to live within the natural limits of our lives, and this sets us free to flourish. Enough is resourced by love and abundance. When we believe that we are enough, we can find freedom and flow that allows us to shine. From a state of being enough, we can put in place boundaries so that what we do is enough, we allow ourselves to live and work at a sustainable pace, and we contribute to making the world a better place for everyone.
Enough is a way of living that welcomes the clarity that boundaries can give us and appreciates the renewable power of our resources. Enough gives us the wisdom to follow the natural patterns of growth and transformation that go way beyond always needing more and recognise when we have enough. Enough connects us to each other and to the planet that we share.
One of the concerns that people have expressed to me about the concept of enough is that it represents mediocrity—settling for average and not trying hard. I think the reverse is true. Enough allows us each to stand on the fertile ground, well rooted and well resourced, so that we can flourish with creativity and brilliance. From our place of enough, we can grow to be the right size—connecting and contributing to others and our environment so we can do amazing things. We move from the ever hungry, never satisfied state of striving to a state of fullness from which we can thrive. Far from being mediocre, enough is a springboard to a healthy and sustainable life.
How we feel about ourselves impacts on how overstretched we become in our lives and work, which in turn impacts how we consume. When we have enough presence, feel that we are enough and can be fully in the present moment, then we can make the choices that frees us up to do enough and we start being conscious of what it is we need in order to have enough. And in finding our state of enough, we can thrive.
And from the end of the book:
“Over the next few decades, humankind is going to have to change to avoid catastrophic climate events and ecocide. If we can do this from a place of Enough Connection—in relationship with our own deepest longing, in relationship with each other, and in relationship with nature herself, it will be such a rewarding journey. We will be able to move away from focusing on having Enough in relation to cost and what we have to stop, and turn instead toward focusing on what Enough gives us. Love is the glue that connects us, so that from a place of being, doing, and having Enough, we can live abundant lives together— sowing the seeds of Enough for generations to come.”
My dream is that in finding our Art of Enough from the inside out, we are able to transform our lives, our work, and our world into the beautiful and sustainable place we all know is possible. So that each of us can flourish, fulfil our potential, and live as stewards of the planet we share—thriving together.