Pursuing Enough: The Key to Contentment and Living a Good Life

Pursuing Enough: The Key to Contentment and Living a Good Life

The Union Path Podcast

"Pursuing Enough: The Key to Contentment and Living a Good Life"

Episode Transcript:

00:21 - John Coleman (Host)
I found myself saying something that struck me as a bit funny, almost as a bit of a non sequitur. I just kind of blurted out and said you know what my dream job would be? One where I actually want to be there. It's got a little laugh, a little chuckle. But the funny thing about the statement and maybe this is just me thinking a little bit too deeply about things is that there's actually quite a bit of truth in that.

I think one of the many gifts of mid-age, or one of the many gifts of going through significant experience whether that's a lot of life, whether that's difficulty, whether that's even a lot of success, but having lived through a lot of experience, the kind of pot of gold at the end of the rainbow is this beautiful encapsulated clarity, this simple truth that we arrive at that we couldn't arrive at any other way. That is not only profound in its ability to change our life, but it's so simple. Like a lot of people, one of the things I came through the pandemic with was just this really powerful awareness that what I actually want isn't really that complicated and it's not really that many things that the quote unquote. True priorities of my life were actually pretty few and thankfully I didn't experience any direct loss of life, loss of job, any sort of serious personal calamity, so I had the space to kind of get a little bit philosophical about my whole experience during the pandemic and during lockdowns. But regardless, I think that's interesting to reflect on that. One of the things that I've experienced and I hear a lot, is when you ask people what they want, they don't actually know.

Especially around mid-age or so, there can be this very common confusion of not actually knowing what we want. And this can happen at other aspects of our lives too. This can be a common, frequent feature of moving through various thresholds, for example, from childhood to young adulthood, from young adulthood to middle age, from middle age to old age. When we move through these thresholds of life, oftentimes there's a reflection point that happens where we really have to choose well, do I continue doing and being what I've been doing and being, or do I make a change? This feels like the perfect opportunity to either step off of something or step on to something else, and so this idea of not really knowing what we want. I think I actually can give you an answer. If you don't know what you want, I think I can actually tell you. I think I can actually tell you with a good bit of certainty. May not be 100% right, but if I was a betting person I'd bet that I was right and what that is. What I think you really want is enough. That's it, that is.

We go through life. Seemingly a lot of the experiences, a lot of the awareness that we gather is really getting to a point where we figure out what that enough is for us. And if we have confusion around what we want, it's because we've lost touch, we've lost awareness, we've lost our familiarity with enough, because that idea of enough is personal, it's different for every person and a lot of times we can really stunt our own growth by not allowing ourselves to find and arrive at the equilibrium of enough, because usually enough is discovered through either too little or too much, because enough is a balance point, enough is balance, and a lot of times we need to go through stages of life where we don't have enough or we have too much to figure out what enough is for us, what it means for us, what it looks like, what it actually is, and unfortunately, both to ourselves and to others, we can chastise these efforts, this clumsiness and kind of fumbling our way too enough, especially when it comes to too much. We love to break people down that are over-consuming, overdoing, being extra. We love to chide and chastise people that we look at, that are being or doing too much, taking too much.

But I think what we miss in this criticism is allowing others the grace to find their own way, because some people, some of us, need to find our way to enough through and via too much. Because how else would we know? If the idea of enough is completely personal and no one else can tell us what enough really means, what it really is for us, then we have to discover it and we have to discover it through our own experience, and a lot of times this is through trial by elimination. This is through experiencing what is not enough, long enough to discover and realize and know and integrate and pursue what actually is enough. But the opposite of this behavior isn't so great either that some of us intentionally and chronically choose less than enough. And there's actually lots of forces, lots of voices in our culture that will reinforce us, that will validate this approach, that will even celebrate us for being less than enough, for choosing less than enough, and we integrate this feedback, we integrate these lessons and then we enacted upon ourselves.

We choose things that are actually too small, we choose things that are actually less than we'd like. We choose things that are just aren't really us, but they fulfill and serve some sort of virtue of self-denial that is somehow supposed to deliver us too enough. And if persisted in long enough, not enough will deliver us too enough, because one day we'll wake up and realize wait a minute, this isn't what I want, this isn't enough, that I've experienced not enough for long enough that I know I don't want to do that anymore and I can use my experience of not enough to know what enough looks like and feels like. So I'm gonna go after that, I'm gonna prioritize, I'm gonna base my life around that and again, this is a personal journey. This is an inward journey more than anything. Yes, we gather lots of experience and information by experiencing things on the outside, but ultimately, the clarity, the conclusion is reached on the inside. We're the only ones who can ever say what enough is. We're the only ones that know what enough looks like and feels like. We're the authority, we're the sole authority on what enough is for us, and the least in a short term.

It is a bit of a tragedy when we're coached away from our own enough, because sometimes, even by well meaning adults and other people in our life, we're encouraged to someone else's enough, as some of the mixed messages I received growing up came from growing up in a split household of where my parents split up when I was five years old. So I spent the majority of my childhood and adolescence going back and forth between two wildly different houses and, on one hand, when it comes to this idea of what I want, as it comes to this idea of enough, I was encouraged to do less, to have less, just be happy with whatever I can get and hold onto it for dear life, maintain a death grip on whatever you have and never let it go, because you won't ever get anything, ever again, and that wanting anything more is wrong. I was really met with an idea of who do you think you are. You're not special, you're not different. Just take what you can get and be happy with that. You get what you get and you don't get upset.

On the other hand, at the other house, I was encouraged to want things I didn't actually want, to want achievements I wanted no part of, to want a social status and a standing and importance that I didn't actually care about. I was encouraged to pursue social cache things I could hold over other people. I was encouraged to win. I was encouraged to compete. I was encouraged to be the best of the best of the best, and I was encouraged to not only be successful, I was encouraged and rewarded for flunting that success. Even at the time, even in adolescence, when I was probably my most egocentric, still felt gross to me. I knew that wasn't really who I am and what I really wasn't about, and I didn't like that attention anyway, that spotlight was very uncomfortable. I was also encouraged to compare, constantly compare and rate and judge, and my point is is that neither of these approaches were right for me. I don't demonize these approaches in anyone else, because that's not the point.

The point, especially when it comes to this idea of enough, is discovering and acknowledging what's enough for me. What do I actually want, what actually matters to me, what actually fulfills me, what actually feels like a full life, what actually feels like a good life, what is that? Well, that's enough. Not enough can feel just as bad, can be just as diminishing and depleting as too much. Like a lot of things, when I seek anything, what I'm actually seeking is balance. What I actually want is balance, because balance is the absence of conflict. Conflict is the evidence of imbalance, and not enough is just as much of an imbalance as too much, because, when we really break it down, I think one of the interesting things about this idea of enough is that's actually what abundance is, that's actually what wealth is, that's actually what a good life is. Is enough Fulfillment, enough of everything. That's the ultimate abundance Not too little, not too much, not too hot, not too cold, not too infrequent, not too often enough.

When I think about what I really want like what does my heart and soul really want out of life, when I really explore deeply and I get past all the superficial, all the base, all the self-centeredness, and I really drill down to what actually makes me happy, what actually makes my soul happy, what actually makes my heart sing, what actually makes a good day and a good life sustained over time, the answer to that question is enough. And so, as I go into my life, as we all go into our lives, this is a useful exercise. These are useful questions to ask. What would be enough In my work situation? What would be enough In my relationship situation? What would be enough In my home situation? What would be enough?

And be honest, really feel after it. Feel it within your body, because you know what enough feels like. You also know what not enough feels like and you know what too much feels like. That's the beauty of a lived life, that's the beauty of lived experience. You have familiarity not only with what you want, but with what you don't want. You know what it all feels like and you can attune yourself to what you want through attuning yourself to that feeling. And I want you to actually do this, I encourage you to do this.

Spend some time with these ideas. What in your life is not enough? What in your life is too much? What does enough look like? What is enough for you? And try to let go of ideas of the virtue of denial as well as the ideas of the virtue of as much as possible. This isn't about rampant consumption. This isn't about peacocking accumulation or achievement. This is about inside of you. That is actually enough Because, let's say, you've gone through life choosing less than enough.

You've gone through life deferring, waiting, always giving first and hoping to receive later, going through life from a sense of denial, deferment. How does that actually feel? How does that actually feel to you? How has that been? Has that even worked? In what ways are you the one denying and separating yourself and not allowing enough? In what ways has this so permeated and penetrated you and what ways have you installed this as your default way of being, of always choosing less than enough, of always pursuing less than enough? How did the fruition, how did the outcomes of those choices and pursuits actually feel? Is that actually good? Does it lead to a life you actually want to live, you actually enjoy, that actually feels full and complete? Probably not, because by pursuing, by choosing, by prioritizing, not enough leads us to a life of not enough.

Conversely, if you've chosen too much, if you try to accumulate and sequester and garner as much as you possibly can, you try to gather as many possessions as you can, as much clout as you can, as much importance as you can, as much achievement as you can, more and more and more for the sake of more and more and more. How has that felt? How has that been for you? I'm guessing it's all a little too much. But the funny thing is when we have these awarenesses. Even if we know we've been choosing not enough, even if we know we've been choosing too much, we still keep doing it. We still persist. And why, well, why do we persist? Any negative habits, any negative behaviors at all? It's usually fear.

If we've chronically chosen not enough, we're afraid of something, we're afraid of being criticized, we're afraid of attention, we're afraid of being too much, we're afraid of being yelled at, we're afraid of being noticed and known. Life can be so much easier if you just stay hidden, if you just stay small, if you camouflage yourself with your own smallness, not having needs, not having wants, not sticking out, not being special, not being unique, dimming your light so that you don't steal light from others, not seeking attention so that others can have it. These are behaviors you've noticed yourself doing. It's a good idea to ask yourself why. Why is not enough? Okay, why am I pretending that not enough is enough?

On the opposite end of the spectrum, if we found ourselves living too much, doing too much, consuming too much, achieving too much, buying too much, peacocking too much, performing too much, broadcasting too much, sharing too much, why have we gotten the idea that too much is actually enough. These are worthwhile and useful things to examine. In fact, this is a really important thing to know about ourselves. What does enough look like? What do I actually want? What actually matters to me? These are some of the most pertinent questions we can ever ask and know the answer to, because there's so much self-knowledge, there's so much self-awareness in knowing the answer to these questions. This is so valuable because once we know what we actually want, once we know what actually matters to us, once we know what enough actually looks like, then we can prioritize our life around those ideas, around those things.

We can bias our life. We can lean in the direction towards enough, which will bring us closer to enough. We can stop leaning in the direction of not enough, which just delivers us to not enough. We can also stop leaning in the direction of too much, which consistently and reliably delivers us to too much. We can have a life of enough by choosing enough, by knowing what enough is, knowing what it looks like for us, knowing what it actually is and means and looks like and feels like for us, and then pursuing that, making that the priority, because once we get these ideas of not enough and too much out of our system, we'll naturally find our way to who and what we really are, because a lot of times those decisions of not enough and too much are about other people or about the external, or about trying to prove something, about trying to be something that we're actually not.

There's a little bit of coercion in there, there's a little bit of manipulation in there, there's a little bit of PR in there, there's a little bit of branding in there. Why not just tell the truth? Why not just be honest? Because you want what you want. Everybody does. It's impossible to not want. That's the drive that propels us through life. So the sooner we acknowledge it, the sooner we honor it, the better. Because acting out of alignment with what we really want, being in conflict with what we really truly deeply want on the inside, just causes conflict in our life, just creates an imbalance that then waits for us to balance.

Is this important and necessary? To live a good life Is to know what enough looks like, to know what enough is and then pursue it. This isn't just information that's interesting from an academic, a theoretical perspective. This is an awareness that's meant to be applied, like a lot of spiritual growth. The value comes in when we actually do something with it. That's the point. This is an applied practice. This isn't just thinking and knowing, this is doing and being as well.

And so, if we don't know what we want, get in touch with this idea, spend some time with it, sit in a quiet room and think about it, go for a walk, hold it in your mind. What would be enough For me? Not anyone else and no one else has to know. This can be just between you and you. That's all that really matters, anyway Is you recognizing and acknowledging and honoring what enough really means for you and then integrating that into your life and then actually pursuing that, basing your decisions on what you do, based on what enough is, what enough means, what enough looks like and feels like for you. Because a good life, a full life, a complete life, the life we actually want, is a life of enough.

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