With work, we get caught up in the notion of always striving to do more, even when we’ve done plenty for one day. Perhaps we have “just a few more things to wrap up” — so we stay late, or bring the laptop home and work through dinner. Perhaps we’re convinced the project we’re working on needs “some finishing touches,” so we give up our plans for the weekend and miss out on some of the nicest days of the season. Or perhaps we get sucked into an office drama or power struggle that consumes so much of our emotional energy that “pouring it on” seems like the only way through.
Meanwhile, our partners and kids wonder why we’re never around, why we’re not much fun anymore, why whatever they’re trying to tell us or show us or involve us in at the moment just doesn’t seem to matter. Our bodies wonder why we’ve stopped nourishing them, resting them and moving them around.
Even if we love our jobs, even if we’re excited by the next big goal, even if we are committed to giving the “110 percent” that others (or we) have come to expect, the truth is that there’s a limit to how much and how hard we can work before we start seeing diminishing returns. We start killing the goose to get the golden eggs. And guess what? It doesn’t feel very good.
The same thing happens with money. Whatever it is we have is always slightly less (or perhaps a great deal less) than we think it would take to make us happy, secure, stress-free. But however much we earn, it seems our ambitions and plans for those earnings are always somewhere out ahead of us. And as our financial commitments, burdens and expectations expand, so does the amount of mental and emotional energy that our fiscal concerns consume.
Meanwhile, our day-to-day sense of connection with what we are doing to earn our money may diminish, our appreciation of the comforts and freedoms our current financial resources accord us may dwindle. We may lose all sense of what constitutes “enough” for us and become entirely focused on more for more’s sake.
And when that happens, everybody loses: our family, our friends, our colleagues, our communities and, perhaps most of all, us. Because what we are exchanging for “more” is often far more precious than we realize: It’s our very life force.
There’s a funny saying: “Don’t tell me I’m burning the candle at both ends. Tell me where to get more wax!” This reflects perfectly the mindset of people who are overworking, overcommitting, overspending: They don’t care about the fact that they are on the road to ruin — they figure that as long as they can rustle up more fuel, they’ll make it work somehow. And there’s got to be more fuel somewhere, right?
Perhaps, but pouring more fuel on the fire isn’t always the best answer. Sometimes it’s worth shining whatever light you have on the situation at hand and asking some questions about what you see illuminated. It’s worth asking, how much — work, money, praise, accomplishment — is enough for me? Is what I’m planning to do the moment I get “more” really any more important and satisfying than what I’m doing — or could be doing — with what I already have?
I believe that our health — physical, mental, emotional and spiritual — is an excellent barometer of how honestly we are answering these questions at any given time. And until we rebuild our health, vitality and perspective to a certain point, we’ll have trouble even realizing that these are the questions our overburdened bodies and stretched-thin lives are begging us to ask.
How much is enough? Each of us must answer that question for him- or herself. But one thing is clear: If what you’re after is a rewarding life, “enough” is better by far than even a little too much.