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Valuing Enough

While the pandemic has brought many challenges, there have been some unexpected blessings along the way. For me, one of those has been the opportunity to reevaluate my priorities and to make some changes so that I can live more consistently with my values. I used to think that my time was an infinite resource. I said that I valued balance in my life, but I was never quite able to achieve it, and when circumstances forced me to take on all of my roles simultaneously (parent, counselor, supervisor, human being), I was exhausted.

Last summer, I read an issue of Yes! Magazine devoted to the question “how much is enough?”. They suggested that if we want balance in our individual lives and equity in the world, we have to be willing to define enough in the context of money, time, work, food, and material things. And defining enough and establishing limits on things is a difficult process in a culture that values excess and overdoing.

In the form of a comic, the magazine also pointed out that while other cultures have words that refer to enough with a positive connotation, like the Finnish word sopirasti which means “just right” and holds the Goldilocks principle as an ideal, American English does not. This reflects the lack of value we place on enoughness.

I have learned as I have lived this question over the past year that determining “how much is enough?” and valuing enoughness is crucial to achieving balance. And this forces us to set limits on some things in order to prioritize others. If we value getting enough sleep, we need to also define and set limits on what is enough work. If we value having enough calm and ordered living space, we need to define and set limits on enough material things. If we value our kids having enough opportunity to play, we need to define and set limits on signing them up for enough structured activities.

In addition to the cultural messages, a hard part about enough is that with limits we also have to admit that we might not do all-the-things and there can be a disappointment or fear of missing out aspect to that. And it is okay to acknowledge and sit with those feelings too.

In my experience, however, the reward of defining enough and setting boundaries around it far exceeds any challenges. Centering enough can help us to be more mindful and present, can reduce our anxiety, and can help us to feel that whatever we are doing at any given moment is exactly what we need to be doing. As we enter a fall full of opportunity, I wish you enough.

-Stacey Patterson, LCPC, MT-BC

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