The topic of “enough” has been a recurring theme this week. Whether it’s what we have, what we do, or what we are, there seems to be this sense that it’s never enough. I would argue the contrary: We have enough, we do enough, and we are enough.
I think the sense of “not enough” comes from our own unrealistic expectations. The seeds of these expectations sprout from many sources, including:
- Advertisements showing all the things we supposedly need, and lack, in order to be happy.
- Unkind comments (intentional or otherwise) from people around to us.
- Societal and cultural definitions of success.
- Comparisons we make between our own worst experiences and someone else’s highlight reel.
- Expectations placed on us by others or ourselves.
When we focus our thoughts on unmet expectations, how can we feel anything other than inadequate, or that we are missing something? How could we possibly have the satisfied sense of enough?
Fortunately, we can change our perspective! Instead of focusing on our unmet expectations we can choose to:
- Appreciate and enjoy where we are right now.
- Enjoy the process of improving, learning, and growing.
- Remind ourselves of the abundance we do have in our lives and be thankful for it
- Realize that someone out there (likely several people) would look at our situations and think that we have, do and are more than enough.
It’s important to have a desire to improve and strive to do and be our very best. This pursuit is one of the great joys of life. However, let’s be sure we’re not missing out on this joy by remembering that while we are striving to improve we are currently, and wonderfully enough.
Tuesday afternoon I went to visit a good friend that I hadn’t seen in a few years. We spent several hours talking about what we are currently doing, what we had been doing recently, and reminiscing about shared history. My friend’s son also joined us, and the 3 of us had a very enjoyable (and sunny) spring evening shooting the breeze on the front porch. It was a great time!
That experience again reminded me how valuable time is and how similar it is to money. Both can be wasted on things of little to no value or they can be invested in something that yields a great return. The big difference between time and money is that we can always get more money. Time squandered cannot be made up or recaptured at a later date.
This thought is sobering, and causes me to be intentional about making sure I’m investing significant portions of my time in things that yield a good return in my life and the lives of others. So what does investing our time look like? It can take the form of:
- Consuming good books, spiritual text (the Bible for me), blog posts, podcasts, or any other content that improves your thinking, expands and enhances worldview, or develops your character.
- Connecting with people who build you up, encourage you, and cause you to strive to live a better life.
- Learning a new skill.
- Being active on a daily basis in order to ensure a healthy body that will function properly for many years to come.
- Connecting with people who could use your encouragement, support, skills, and experiences.
- Supporting causes and people you believe in.
The options for investing our time are numerous!
Just like with money, we are not required to invest our time in things that will yield a lasting return. Our time is ours to do with as we please.
I think it’s important to make sure that we are indeed making significant investments of our time over the course of our lives. How sad it would be to look back at the end and see a life defined by the mishandling of our time.
Exploring new paths
My wife and I were recently in Southeastern Arizona around Tucson and Bisbee visiting new sites and exploring the area. Neither of us had been there, so it was energizing to experience new sites and surroundings every day and travel down paths that we had never experienced. It got me thinking: Why aren’t I making a greater effort to break out of my daily routine and experience new things during my non-vacation days?
It is incredibly easy to develop routines in the midst of our everyday lives. Deciding where we go and what we do can become automatic to the point that we actually don’t decide on these things, but rather succumb to the routines we’ve already established. While there are some benefits to a well-established routine, I think we could also benefit from shaking up elements of our routines that are keeping us from new and potentially enjoyable experiences.
Here are a few small examples of how we might go about changing up our daily routine:
- Do you always eat at the same restaurant or go to the same coffee shop every day? Instead of going to the same national chains, why not trying something different and visit a locally owned establishment. Maybe even get in the habit of not eating at or getting coffee from at the same place within the same month.
- Instead of driving the same route to work, school, or while running errands, consider taking a new route, or even a new mode of transportation like a bike, walking, or public transit.
- Are you always watching the same types of shows or movies? Why not instead attend a play or go to the symphony or a concert in a genre that is different from what you usually listen to.
- Get to know people beyond your current comfortable group of friends.
- Read books or listen to podcasts from people or on topics you wouldn’t normally consider, or whose views might be a little different from your own.
Why can’t every week be filled with excitement and new experiences that stretch and grow us? Why can’t we travel down new and interesting paths during the course of our everyday lives? The good news is we can, if we choose to do so.
Look for opportunities every week to experience something new and different that will expand your understanding, increase your knowledge or just make you a more interesting person. They’re out there. We just have to break out of our routines to find them.
My wife and I both had this last week off from work together. Although we usually use time off as an opportunity to do some traveling, this week we decided to stay in town and do some work around the house and enjoy spending time together. We have had a relaxing week and a great time being together.
While it was fun to wake up each day with nothing specific planned, I though how boring life would be if I woke up EVERY day without having a plan or purpose for the day. I think we’re at our best when we have a purpose or a contribution we want to make in the world. At some point, a focus only on our own needs begins to feel hollow, leaving us bored and disconnected with the rest of the world. At least it does for me.
Just to be clear, I think it is extremely important to regularly step back from our busy schedules and take time to slow down, relax, and recharge. This is a great way to get reconnected with those around us and to examine how we’re spending our days, to ensure we’re still in alignment with our goals and passions. It is also a great way to ensure that we’re being intentional with our days; and with our lives.
We’ve all been blessed with time, skills and talents. It’s important to make sure we’re not just using them, along with our time, strictly for our own benefit, but to share them with others. This not only helps those we share them with, it also gives us a feeling of purpose and contribution.