“If you worship money and things — if they are where you tap real meaning in life — then you will never have enough. Never feel you have enough…On one level, we all know this stuff already…The trick is keeping the truth up-front in daily consciousness.” ― David Foster Wallace
According to Forbes, the “word enough is a relative term. We all should have our own set of unique life goals to guide financial decisions. Unfortunately, if you haven’t taken the time to explore your financial plans, you may end up getting trapped in the pursuit of more rather than the contentment of enough.” (This article also is a worksheet designed to help one figure out their own “enough.)”
It is said that we all go on a journey through the “real world.” We have all of school (and for some of us college) to pack our bags with the things we think we’ll need for this journey. Once we set out, our goal is to someday find this magical land called “enough” and settle down there.
This land of “enough” is up to us to decide. It is not like a mountain peak that is clear and obviously marked that we’ve arrived. As we begin journeying, we realize that the farther we go and the more work that we put into traversing this treacherous landscape, the larger the fields become to settle down in and the more beautiful the landscape around us becomes: epic views, big cliffs, huge trees, and lush green pastures. Also, the farther that we make it, the more we are admired by those around us, looked at as “successful,” and lauded for our hard work.
But what about changing our focus on this journey to enjoy the scenery with our friends and family? What about making new friends along the way? It’s as if every time that we become proud of our hard work and think of slowing down, someone farther up ahead yells how beautiful it is there, and those around us all decide to keep pushing “just a little bit farther.”
At any point we can choose to enjoy the journey, smile, and spend more time with those we love. However, the daily striving for just a little more keeps most of us focused on the destination and forgetting to also enjoy the journey. So what are we missing out on? The beautiful landscapes, rivers, and views, curiously exploring new flowers that we’ve never seen before, embracing our inner kid and climbing the coolest looking trees, oh yeah, and determining that at any moment we can also live into “enough.” At any point, we can choose gratitude, choose to be happy with how far we’ve made it, choose to be grateful for the people and the things that we’ve accumulated along the way.
“Enough” though is not about abandoning the pursuit, or life without goals. “Enough” is the choice to seek more, strive on, yet also be happy with where we are right now. “Enough” is not choosing between the journey or the destination, it’s enjoying BOTH.
To many of us, enough and more have come to mean the same thing; by making more, we believe we will have enough. With our definition of “enough” always equaling “more,” we’ve begun to condition ourselves to look forward to tomorrow while overlooking all that we have today. By making more money, we will have enough to go on nicer vacations, wear nicer clothes, have more status, etc. Eventually, by accumulating enough of these things, we might eventually feel like “we’ve made it;” and isn’t that what most of us want? To have a few moments to stop, relax, and enjoy the view.
“Happiness is not in the mere possession of money; it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort.” – President Franklin D. Roosevelt
The Disease of “More”
Commonly, we associate the idea that “Things will be better when we…”, and then fill in the blank with “have more money.” We also sometimes fill the blank with things like, “get married, get a raise, get that new car, send our kid to college, become a millionaire, etc.” This way of thinking traps us into a vision of happiness that is forever on the horizon. Even when we reach the place that so long ago we would have associated with happiness or success, things so quickly become “not enough.” We condition ourselves to believe that “more” is the answer to our woes.
J-Cole shares how even things such as money, cars, girls “aren’t real” and that they’re alright to have, but the problem comes when we ‘place our value on these things.’ Similar to Dan Bilzerian, multimillionaire who’s famous for living a lifestyle of excessive opulence (girls, cars, parties, drugs, etc.) says, “Money and girls is like a blackhole. I feel like there is never enough.”
A variety of people were interviewed from various levels of different wealth, and when asked how much money would make them happy, all said “50% more than what they were currently making.” “More” sounds like a nice number in our head, but more is a constantly evolving number. “More” eventually becomes like chasing a carrot on a stick than an eventual land of milk and honey.
J-Cole, a famous rapper, talks about his relationship with success, fame, money, girls, gold chains, cars, etc. This video is referred to as “The Disease of More.” While maybe not a disease, the pursuit of wealth itself can also become an addiction. As psychologist Dr. Tian Dayton explained, “a compulsive need to acquire money is often considered part of a class of behaviors known as process addictions, or “behavioral addictions,” which are distinct from substance abuse. Process addictions are addictions that involve a compulsive and/or an out-of-control relationship with certain behaviors such as gambling, sex, eating, and, yes, even money.…”
This Ted Talk shines a light on addiction. In it, Johann Harie talks about studies done with rats and cocaine. They put cocaine in the rats’ water, and the rats would drink the water until they ended up overdosing and dying. One researcher realized that in all of the studies, the rats were alone. The next time, they did this study with numerous rats all together and created a rat play world for them to interact in. The rats chose connection and hanging out together over cocaine! The point is that connection is more powerful than almost anything else. If we foster community and a vibrant, fulfilling social life we may be less likely to succumb to addictive behavior.
- What are three areas of life that you feel you need “more?” Next to each answer, write how much of that thing would be “enough”
Why Do So Many of Us Want More?
- We’re Using Money to Meet Our Needs- Needs are our yes. They serve our life. They are the basic things that we all need at various times and amounts in our lives. When we as individuals use money to meet our need for significance, value, self-worth, joy, or even love, we’ve built our meaning on a foundation that is unstable. We all do it at times. Usually it’s what’s quick and easy.
But the more we use money or short-term solutions to meet longer-term problems, like meeting our needs, the more trouble we are in.
- Social Comparison- “Men do not desire to be rich, only to be richer than other men.” -John Stuart Mill
- Hedonic Treadmill – We all have a happiness set point, or average level of happiness at which we function. Even the shiniest of toys or most expensive watches only raise this happiness set point temporarily.
- Too much Value on Material Things – Since the mid-1980s, studies have revealed that people with “materialistic values” are less happy and satisfied with life. Why? “They overestimate the happiness they’ll get from purchases and don’t realize how quickly it will fade.”
- The American Dream – The American Dream, meant to be an ideal, is as American as apple pie. Essentially, it’s that everyone will achieve material success after they work for it. According to Mark Manson “In fact, economic mobility is lower in the US than almost every other developed country, and somewhere on par with Slovenia and Chile — not exactly the gold standards of economic opportunity in the world (no offense to my Slovenian and Chilean readers). And other Anglo countries such as Australia and Canada have far more economic mobility, as well as those icky socialist countries like Denmark, Sweden, and Finland.” This belief in boundless opportunity promotes a culture of optimism, an expectation of upward social mobility, and a continued hope for “more” that often doesn’t manifest.
- We’ve Yet to Define “Enough” – Unless we have our own definition of “enough,” our desire for money falls back into a huge lost sea of hope, ambiguity, and 60 hour work weeks called “more.” Without knowing how much “enough” is, it’s easy to justify staying an extra thirty minutes here, or working after we get home (just this one time), until the drive for more leaves us feeling as if we’re no longer “enough.” This striving for “enough” isn’t limited to monetary pursuits. Purpose, status, meaning, and recognition are all other popular ways we strive for “enough.”
- Which three of the above reasons most affect you the most personally? Why?
What is Enough?
Let’s define ‘enough’ then. “The new roadmap says that there is something called ‘enough’…’enough’ is this vibrant, vital place…an awareness about the flow of money and stuff in your life, in light of your true happiness and your sense of purpose and values, and that your ‘enough point’ (having enough) is having everything you want and need, to have a life you love and full self-expression, with nothing in excess. It’s not minimalism. It’s not less is more (because sometimes more is more), but it’s that sweet spot, it’s the Goldilocks point.” —Your Money or Your Life – Vicki Robin
There are many ways to define enough. A few that we recommend are:
- Enough is a space of gratitude and appreciation for what already is.
- Enough is a finite place and amount that can some day actually be achieved.
- Enough is the opposite of “more.” It’s an acceptance that this moment is what is, and that happiness is a choice even in this moment. Enough is presence.
- Enough is the choice to seek more, strive on, yet also be happy with where we are right now. Enough is not choosing between the journey and the destination, but enjoying both.
“Unexpected money is a delight. The same sum is a bitterness when you expected more.” – Mark Twain
For some of us though, “enough” might sound a little vague. Can we put a number on this ‘enough’ thing? Partially. Research has suggested amounts at which both Emotional Well being and Satisfaction with life might max out:
- “Emotional well-being: ~$75,000-The two studies agree on how much income you need to max out your emotional well-being, which means the mix of positive and negative emotions you experience day-to-day.” (This is for the average American in today’s society).
- “Satisfaction with life: ~$105,000 Satisfaction with life is a long-term evaluation of one’s own life, assessed by asking people where they stand on a scale of the worst to the best possible life. The two studies both find that maxing out life satisfaction requires a higher income, but only the new study found an upper limit where more income no longer adds to your satisfaction.”
- However, another study points to a salary of $500,000 as the point where our happiness begins to max out!
Defining “Enough” For Yourself
If you don’t decide enough for yourself, you’ll never be happy because more is a land that only exists in tomorrow.
A life of “more” is virtually guaranteed to leave us drained, empty, and void of a meaningful life. Chasing “more” is like waking up each morning and putting on the blinders they put on horses to keep them from seeing what’s in their peripheral vision. The blinders that we wear keep us from appreciating all that already exists, and no matter how far we make it, we’re only able to see what’s on the horizon.
The chasm between “more” and “enough” is often so broad, so expansive, and often so undefined, that it can feel a bit scary to traverse.
The good news is that when we do define ‘enough,’ recognizing the ‘more’ we’re racing toward, everything changes. We now have a finite goal and a place to call “home.” The first and biggest step is defining “enough” for ourselves because as easy as it is to use social comparison as a means to determine our enough, the truth is that no one else can define “enough” for us.
And the even better news is that reaching this land of enough is easier than we think. This is a land where we get to decide what “enough” looks like (even if that’s chocolate waterfalls in our basement or joining a club where we ride around in Maseratis). Whether this land means getting to go to all of our kids’ soccer games, occasionally splurging on pizza nights, or even taking a day off work to go for a hike; this world is completely our land, and we are the architects designing it.
Knowing the below is what the architect knows:
Four Quick Ways to Have “Enough”
- Knowing Ourselves is the First Step Towards Having “Enough” – Sit down and figure out what pieces of life are most important to you. Let’s say we decide that as long as we have one date night each week with our partner, one afternoon each week to meet with our best friend, a $200,000 house, and a new Jeep, we can be happy. Knowing our priorities enables us to say “no” to all of the other things vying for our time.
- Sustainability is key – Life is a marathon, not a sprint. Sure, 80-hour weeks might help us accomplish our dream of opening a business, and this level of work is probably not sustainable for most. Figuring out some level of sustainability (whether that be vacations, naps, or trips to the park with our kinds) enables the journey towards “enough” to be one that we enjoy.
- Smashing Social Comparison: This piece is huge, and might be a continual battle for most of us (proving to others, or, let’s say, our spouse’s parents that we are “successful” or “enough”). Fulfilling our own purpose and spending money according to our own values enables us to live from our internal values rather than to impress others.
“Too many people spend money they earned..to buy things they don’t want..to impress people that they don’t like.” — Will Rogers
4. Frugality – being able to enjoy the simple things. The more joy we can squeeze out of each moment of life, the more meaningful life becomes.
“Better is a little with content than much with contention.” – Benjamin Franklin
“Wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants.” –Epictetus
Quick Practice: What is Enough?
Join us for a quick 7 minute activity to help you figure out your own “enough.”
- When you think of the word “enough,” what are the first four things that pop into your mind (some examples are a dollar amount, a certain lifestyle, vacations, an amount of freedom, time with loved ones, etc.)?
- What are three things that you’ve spent money on over the last year that now feel less like necessities?
- What are the three things that you’ll feel most fulfilled purchasing or getting to do?
- What are four things that you wouldn’t trade for any amount of money or success?
- If you did have “enough,” what are three words/phrases you’d use to describe your life?
- What are four ways that your life is already “enough?”