Enough Is Enough

Jun 17, 2021 3 min read
Enough Is Enough

Why does it always seem like we don't have enough?

As Lao Tzu, the writer of the Tao Te Ching, said, "The person who knows that enough is enough will always have enough.''

To explore this concept a little more, let's look at the tale of the Brazilian fisherman and the businessman. Here's a version adapted by Mark Albion:

A young businessman was at the pier of a small coastal village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. Seeing several giant yellowfin tuna inside the small boat, the businessman complimented the fisherman on the quality of the fish and asked how long it took to catch them. "Only a little while," the fisherman replied.

A little surprised, the young businessman asked, "Why didn't you stay out longer and catch more fish?" The content fisherman said, "This is enough to support my family's immediate needs. I don't need any more." "But what do you do with the rest of your time?" asked the confused young man. "I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take a walk with my wife, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine and play guitar with my buddies; I have a full and busy life."

The lad scoffed, "I am a Harvard MBA and could help you. You should spend more time fishing and with the proceeds buy a bigger boat, then with the proceeds from the bigger boat you could buy several boats, eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to a middleman you would sell directly to the processor, eventually opening your own cannery. You would control the product, processing and distribution. You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to LA and eventually NYC where you will run your expanding enterprise."

The fisherman asked, "How long will this all take?" to which the young man replied, "15-20 years." "But what then?" The businessman laughed and said, "That's the best part. When the time is right you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich, you would make millions."

"Millions, sir? Then what?"

"Then you would retire, move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take a walk with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your buddies."

The businessman in this story was disillusioned as to what was enough. However, being 'happy' or 'enough' to the businessman was a long-term process that led to the same destination as the fisherman.

The businessman is not alone in this mentality; there is a cultural disillusionment that says that you must gather wealth and buy extravagant things to have the feeling of being enough. Of course, these are not bad things, but if goals become the source of feeling enough or feeling happy, this is where the issue lies.

The Hedonic Treadmill theory states that most people keep to a consistent level of happiness regardless of changes in status or fortune. So whether you had $100K or $100 Million in the bank, your satisfaction really wouldn't change all that much because as we gain more fortune or acquire more things, our expectations and desire rise too.

So now that we know what enough shouldn't look like, where do we find it?

Well, you already have it.

Most of the time, we already have enough, but our sights aren't focused on where we are at but instead fixated upward to where we want to be. Feeling enough takes awareness and gratitude for the present. Knowing what enough is takes an adjustment of attitude, not an adjustment of wealth.

Remember that goals and achievements are great, but they don't make you a more fulfilled person. That's up to you to decide, and that change can happen now.

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