How much money, possessions, fitness, love, trust, happiness, anything….. is enough to satisfy our cravings?
The biggest problem with the consumer driven mindset is that it dulls our inner “enough” alarm. It’s like Aesop’s famous story about the goose and the golden egg. The farmer was down on his luck when one day he saw a golden egg next to his best goose. He couldn’t believe his luck. The next day, another golden egg. His wealth was exploding. Now he wanted more than one a day. In his greed and impatience, he killed the goose, reached in to pull out the golden eggs, but none were to be found.
There’s nothing wrong with seeking wealth, as long as you know why you want it. If you don’t know why, the insatiable drive could leave you cold. Your level of wealth needs to be part of a larger (even higher) plan to live a life of meaning.
An American investment banker was on vacation in Mexico. He met a Mexican fisherman who was cleaning fish. The businessman asked him how long it took him to catch the fish. He said, “Not long.”
So the American asked him, “Why don’t you stay out longer. You could catch more.”
The Mexican replied, “This is enough to support my family. Now I have time to play with my children, take siestas with my wife, and drink wine and play guitar with my amigos in the evening.”
The American said, “You should consider spending more time fishing. You could buy a whole fleet of boats, and open your own cannery. Eventually you could move to America and list your company on the Stock Exchange.”
The Mexican said, “How long will this all take?”
The American replied, “15 – 20 years.”
“What then?” asked the Mexican.
The American laughed and said, “That’s the best part. You will become so wealthy you can stop working. You can move to a coastal fishing village, sleep late, play with the grandkids, take siestas with your wife, and drink wine and play guitar with your amigos in the evening.”
The point is clear. Everything the fisherman needed, he already had.
There’s nothing wrong with ambition. You don’t have to settle for a life of poverty and struggle. Just know what your higher goals are.
In my case, I’ve discerned three measurements for anything I work on.
I want to know that I what I put time into has impact; both for me and others. I want to know it makes a difference even if I don’t always see the results.
I want to feel joy and personal satisfaction in what I do.
I want to create a sustainable life so that I don’t have to spend my time worrying about the future.
Because of point 3, I do need to make plans and set targets. I have no interest in living in poverty and I have no need to be super wealthy. Enough is somewhere in between.
Wealth itself is not the problem. Lack of awareness is the problem. If money is just a cover for some other hunger, then chasing wealth is like binge eating or obsessive workaholicism or any other drug of choice. It won’t give you a sustainable high. As Epicurus said,
Nothing is enough for the person who finds enough too little.
Or As Oprah said,
If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever, have enough.
Start from a place of deep seated acceptance that you are enough to begin with before adding anything material to your life. You ARE enough as you are. Nothing material, money, popularity, fame, glory, body shape, can add to your essence and conversely no loss of these things can take away from your essence.
From a starting point of acceptance, you can work toward these things or not. It will be a choice. Just don’t expect them to make you happy or worthwhile in themselves. That is a done deal well before the diet begins.