Last week, I reviewed Jen Hatmaker’s book 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess. It got some good feedback (even from the author!). One of the comments left was this one:
I don’t get it?! what’s wrong with having things and living a happy life?! why do we always have to cut back on things…
And I thought, “Those are good questions and deserve a post reflecting on them.” So here we are.
There is nothing wrong with a) having things and b) living a happy life. However, they are not inclusive of each other. We all know of the people who have lots of things and don’t live happy lives. Need examples? Look at the celebrities who unexpectedly lost their lives to substance abuse– legal or otherwise. And of course not having things doesn’t mean you can’t have a happy life either. If you actually know people who live below the poverty line, you now they are not all living unhappy lives.
The bottom line is, having things is not an indicator of happiness. Personally, I believe everyone has a baseline of happiness that is tied to having things.
Ok, let’s think about food for a minute. Everyone needs a certain bare minimum of food to survive. After you meet that bare minimum, you should take in food and manage it in a way to maintain your body in a healthy way. We all have our own personal cutoffs when it comes to food– that level where you know you’ve exceeded the amount you need to be healthy. The beauty is, we have actual evidence of this right? We have indicators of whether we’re managing our food intake properly. You can be underweight, healthy, overweight, obese, or morbidly obese. When you hit the range of excess– overweight, obese, or morbidly obese, there’s only one way to get back to healthy– eat less.
The important thing to remember is this– although there are standard indicators of whether or not you are eating correctly, there is no standard on the exact amount of food a person should take in to be healthy. A quick search on the web reveals the “recommended” number of calories a young woman takes in a day is different than a young pregnant woman. Children at different ages have different recommendations as well. Bodybuilders require a different amount of calories than an average man. And anyone who’s ever even bothered counting calories knows that’s not the whole story.
We know that I have a different metabolism rate than you do so even though we might be the same age, weight, and height I need less calories a day than you do because I metabolize differently than you do. We also know there are different types of calories right? There are healthy calories and empty calories for instance. So you see, what works for me as far as how much food I should eat will simply not work for you.
Money? Is the exact same thing.
The hardest part is determining your financial number of calories. But, it’s just something you have got to do. What do I mean?
Figuring out your own personal “enoughness”.
What is enough house for you? What is enough car for you? Enough clothes? Enough entertainment? Enough education? Enough charity? Enough beauty? What is enough time spent earning money?
We are told throughout our lives, “The sky’s the limit!” and it is, but it’s most likely not the right limit for you or for me or for anyone really.
Determining what is your very own enough is one of the most liberating experiences you can imagine. Just getting started on figuring it all out generates a really calm feeling in your soul.
We don’t like endlessness. We don’t like not knowing where we’re headed. We don’t like not knowing the plan. We don’t like being at the mercy of others.
When you don’t take personal responsibility for determining your very own Enough, you are putting yourself in the hands of others. And you are putting yourself in the hands of two types of others– the type who are as clueless, blind, and lost as you are and the type who have their own levels of Enough set and they want you to get them there.
Now that I think I squared away the first half of the comment, let’s do the second half–
why do we always have to cut back on things…
Try this little mental exercise for me, ok? I’d say close your eyes but you wouldn’t be able to read the rest of it. So, empty your mind as much as possible.
In your mind’s eye, picture yourself. Go ahead and do a really good job fleshing yourself out there. Don’t do an imaginary you or a fantasy you. Add the pounds. Put some clothes on even if it’s a bit wrinkly. Figure your hair out. Give yourself a facial expression you like. Don’t forget the details– a wedding ring, shoes, glasses or contact lenses, a laptop case or a purse, etc.
Ok now that you’ve got you, add anyone you help support in a significant way. Children, parents, siblings, significant others, etc. And now put yourself in your home. Map out all of your rooms. Drop all of your furniture into them. Fill your fridge up the way you’ve got it right now. Go ahead and turn the TV on. Check the closets. Open the drawers. Have a pet? Don’t forget to set out their food and water.
And just keep going. Think about any car you might have. Think about everything you and/or your loved ones did in the past week. Think of the doctor visits, the breakfasts, the lunches, the dinners, Valentine’s Day, the movie rentals/streaming, the craft projects, the groceries, the clothes you laundered, the floors you washed, the toilets you scrubbed, the ride to and from work, and so on and so forth.
Do you see “enough”? Do you even see abundance? If you are honestly looking at just YOU, you most probably do. When we start bringing in other comparison points, things diminish and lose their luster don’t they?
And that’s the point. Just like your food diet is not going to work for me, your neighbor’s things are not going to work for you. Once you’re at Enough, everything else isn’t going to do anything for you. Just like with food, you can even reach a level of Too Much. And that’s when you start cutting back and doing so joyously.
When you’re losing weight, do you bemoan the pounds as they roll back? Do you suffer anxiety as your clothes becomes looser and looser on you? Of course not! Because you know you are on the way to health.
This ties back to what I mentioned in my review of 7. The unique thing about her approach was she turned her diet into an opportunity to benefit others. And maybe this is something you can try if the idea or act of cutting back in your life disturbs you. Imagine if there was a way doctors could take the weight you lost and give it to someone chronically underweight. Wouldn’t that motivate you to lose even more? The same thing applies with charity.
I’d like to believe that most of us care for people outside of ourselves. That’s the beauty of Enough. When you have Enough, you’re free to give and care for others. You can send your niece to college. You can volunteer at a hospital. You can donate to a food bank or a homeless shelter. You can hire a cleaning lady for your friend with cancer.
We tend to focus on people who have more than us when we seek comparison. And when we do, it’s pretty yucky feeling. We don’t stack up. But if we compare to those who have less, I believe we will more often than not find ourselves wanting to help and we will always feel grateful, which is a pretty nice feeling.
So there you are. That’s my very long answer to your very short comment. What about you, readers? Do you see enough? Do you see abundance? Do you compare a lot to others around you even in external ways like TV shows, movies, ads, etc.? Are you still working on figuring out your Enough?