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The Problem with External Values - We Never Reach “It”

An introduction to the concept of “enough”.

For a lot of us … I know it was me for a long time (decades even) … we focus on external values - what our society and media says we are to value and work hard for.

While there are many many reasons why using external values to fulfil and complete us is futile … I want to talk about one today that I have found to be true in my life and in the lives of many people I know both personally and professionally.

There is this term for this reason called the “Arrival Fallacy” which was first introduced by positive expert Tal Ben-Shahar in his book “Happier”. Simply put it works like this. We set a goal (goal #1) … we work hard to achieve that goal … we achieve goal #1 … but rather than be content with goal #1, we then set goal #2 which takes the place of goal #1.

We seek a larger house in an exclusive neighborhood … larger raises … go for bigger clients … we keep upping the ante. The cycle never ends.

And while we are going from one goal to the next our schedules are packed to the brim leaving no white space in our lives. Plus we are constantly feeling overwhelmed by all the thing we can/want to do, but yet don’t feel like you’ve ever actually got everything done.

Now I am not saying that we should not have goals … that we should not seek to improve. But it is a slippery slope. When we seek goal after goal … it can and does develop into a cycle of searching for external things—accomplishments or material objects—to fulfill and complete us. And again, the cycle never ends … we never feel fulfilled and complete.

I don’t bring all this up so you and I and all the others can feel bad about ourselves and our choices. We have all fallen prey to these ideals over the years. I bring them up to get us (yes, not only you but me too) to start focusing on “enough”.

So what is this concept / idea of “enough”?

I want to explore one definition “enough”. Jason Zook, author of “Why You Should Focus on Enough Instead of More” states that the “enough mindset” is: “Clearly defining your own limitations in life and business that YOU feel confident, comfortable and happy with”.

I like the idea of being intentional about determining what my boundaries are not only in my life but also in my business.

For now, I want to look at one way I and some of my clients have determined our “enough”…our boundaries. It started when Stuart sold his business for enough money that at 45 he will never have to work again … if he doesn’t want to. It looked like … let’s get a new (read “bigger”) house in the local exclusive neighborhood. It looked like … we can pay for ALL of the kids college expenses, giving them a free ride for both undergraduate and graduate school. Decisions after decisions presented themselves, While it was great to be in a place to have these kind of decisions to make … it was also a time of internal conflict. Do we really need a bigger house – we only have 1 kid left at home and he will be leaving in a year? If we give the kids a free ride – how does that teach them the value of sacrificing and working hard for what they want (like we had to)?

As we explored what the boundaries needed to be, we came upon a concept that is not new but one that most of us don’t consider. It’s called a manifesto - a published declaration of the intentions, motives, or views of the issuer, in this case that of a particular individual. Probably the most known one in our times is the Modesto Manifesto of Billy Graham. For when he established his ministry Mr. Graham set out publicly the 4 rules under which he would conduct his life and his ministry.

Our challenge was to consciously and intentionally establish in writing the rules by which decisions would be made … in the particular case of Stuart and his money … about the rules for the use of those monies.

And while the example we talked about above is about money, the concept of enough … of boundaries … of a manifesto … applies to all areas of our lives. But it is important to recognize that how I define my “enough” may be wildly different from your “enough”. And that is “ok”. For what is “enough” is subjective to each and every person. But the common thread … the common theme … is to consciously and intentionally establish your own definition of “enough”.

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