How Much is Enough?

How Much is Enough?  This is a trick question.  Everyone’s right answer is different, and it can change continually for each aspect of your life.

Look at the many ways we struggle with this question in our minds:

  • How many late night hours of preparation for that presentation is enough?
  • How much job-related reading and professional development should I do?
  • How much in-person networking and social networking must I do to maintain and build my reputation and client pipeline?
  • How much exercise and other rejuvenating activities are enough to sustain a healthy, balanced lifestyle?
  • How detailed should my business plans and work products be?
  • How many clients is enough?…. How much revenue is enough?

As we each try to answer these questions – whenever they pop up – it is important to remember that most of the time we personally control the definition of Enough.  And we owe it to ourselves to understand the costs that accompany Too Much.  In fact, we each are the instrument of calibration – defining what is too little, what is enough, and what is excessive for our own value systems, energy reserves, and situations.  If we pay attention and don’t look exclusively outside ourselves for the answer (e.g., how much do my competitors blog, how late do my colleagues work), our instincts, and even our physical bodies, will tell us what is enough.

[Note: Sometimes we don’t control the definition of Enough – a manager or client does, with demands and deadlines.  Yet even in those situations, we can look for resourceful ways, at the margin, to adjust how we deliver Enough– how much detail, how much delegating and seeking help, how we make trade-offs, and how we keep emotional distance from demands that are especially difficult.]

Just as Perfect is the enemy of Good, a healthy understanding of Enough has other enemies to watch out for.  And those enemies can undermine your good judgment and sense of balance.

Enemy #1:  Unrealistic expectations.

When we raise the bar unrealistically high, a goal can seem so daunting that we keep it on the back burner indefinitely.  (e.g., I can’t stay on top of business development consistently, so why bother with a monthly plan; I don’t have time now to go to the gym 4x/week… So I’ll start exercising next month.)

Enemy #2:  Unconstructive comparisons.

When we use the wrong information to set our definition of enough, things don’t feel right.  For example, when we see someone truly excel at something we value (e.g., career progression), we often do not acknowledge the necessary trade offs that the individual made, and we inadvertently dismiss the fact that those trade-offs do not fit with our own values.

Enemy #3:  Rigidity.

All or nothing thinking can lead us to believe that anything short of our seemingly ideal Enough is equally disappointing –- whether we miss our goal my an inch or a mile.  Enough-ness is better approached as aspirational, something we strive for but do not attain to the same degree every week.  In fact, differentiating between just missing a personal target and missing by a mile makes for smart self-awareness and self-management.

Enemy #4:  What else? What is your self-limiting tendency?

What do you notice when you look at the silent definitions of Enough that you carry around – Do they weigh you down?  Is it time to recalibrate for any aspects of your professional and personal life?  I would be curious to hear your answer.