From the New Yorker, May 16th, 2005
True story, Word of Honor:
Joseph Heller, an important and funny writer
now dead, and I were at a party given by a billionaire
on Shelter Island.
I said, “Joe, how does it make you feel
to know that our host only yesterday
may have made more money
than your novel ‘Catch-22’
has earned in its entire history?”
And Joe said, “I’ve got something he can never have.”
And I said, “What on earth could that be, Joe?”
And Joe said, “The knowledge that I’ve got enough.”
Not bad! Rest in peace!”
What is enough? That is a hard concept to grasp in any area of your life. What is enough money to make? What is enough time exercising? What is enough support from your spouse?
When does ambition stop being a good thing and turn into a cycle of reaching and achieving that consumes you? If we are constantly in pursuit of goals that we cannot see and things that we cannot afford then how will we ever be happy?
Princeton did a recent study that came to the conclusion that there was no connection between higher levels of happiness and money after a person reaches $75,000/year. For some people that is a hard goal to reach. For others they have met that long ago and moved on but still are not happy. Why do you think that is? Constant pursuit for a number that you have never set is a road to disaster. You may be thinking that you are working harder to provide more for your family so they can have the best life possible; but there is a point where money will no longer provide that and your time and love become far more critical to reaching that goal. How much money is enough?
What about your fitness? Most people stop a workout because they are not seeing results fast enough. Most of the time this occurs because they set the bar too high. Why isn’t enough being able to play with your children or grandchildren? Maybe it is being able to play in the weekly ultimate frisbee game with your friends. If that is enough then you don’t need an intense workout schedule and an expensive gym membership. You just need to jog for half an hour three times a week. It is mentally daunting to try and reach goals that seem so far away. If you don’t figure out why you are getting in shape then you are creating a huge barrier to success in your fitness.
How much food is enough? Who said we need to eat three meals a day? Who decided the size of the plates and bowls that we use? Your weight would drastically change if you simply had smaller portions. My good friend made the insightful observation that when we are picking out places to go eat, we often think of what restaurant provides the most food. You think restaurants don’t realize this? They know that if they fill the plate with something cheap, like fries, then we will feel like we got a great deal and want to come back. Have you ever sat around at the end of a meal with your friends and continued snacking on the fries just because they are there? Haven’t you already had enough?
What about your spouse? I once heard that many people get divorced because their spouse provides them with only 80% of the things that they are looking for in a mate. When they meet someone new that has that other 20% that is missing in their life, it excites them. It is new and intriguing. They want to go and check out what this new thing is like. Problems arise. Cheating might occur and this person now has the new 20% that they have been looking for. However, what happens a couple months down the road when that 20% is not new and exciting anymore? They will want that 80% back that they had with their spouse. Regret will follow. The questions becomes, is that 80% really not enough? Maybe your spouse only has 75% or maybe they have 90%, but if you are always looking to have the full 100% then you will never be happy. No one is perfect. We are all full of flaws. I hope that you don’t think that you are providing 100% of what your spouse wants because I doubt it. It is just not real. Continue reading “How much is enough?”