Enough

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.

Start With a Dot

Think about learning a new topic, whether for work, for fun, or for a changing life circumstance.  There is so much you don’t know at the beginning of the learning process that it can feel overwhelming or even hopeless; like you’ll never be able to master the topic.  So how do we overcome this feeling?  What’s the best way to start our learning journey, on our way toward mastery?  I say, “Start with a dot.”

Learning usually starts with a book, a lecture, Googling a topic, or a number of other methods to begin gaining basic information about a topic.  This basic information could be things like, vocabulary or acronyms specific to the topic, names of people in the field, specific dates, places, or events relevant to the history of the topic.  Think of each of these basic pieces of information as unique individual dots.

As you begin your initial discovery, the first piece of information you learn, represents your first dot.  Congratulations!  You now know something about your topic that you didn’t know before.  Now that you have your first dot, continue the discovery process until you learn another piece of information.  Congratulations again!  You’ve discovered your second dot.

So now you have 2 dots.  That’s good, but it’s about to get great!  Here’s where you begin to catapult your learning to a new level.  Take your 2 dots and determine how those 2 pieces of information are connected, in relation to the context of the topic you’re studying.  Begin connecting the dots.

Once we are armed with a couple of dots, we are now able to go to people who are more knowledgeable on the topic  and ask intelligent questions.  Our 2 dots allow us to talk in the language of the topic with someone who can help us:

  • connect the dots we already have, and
  • discover new dots and make connections to those dots from the dots we already have

Here’s an example:  When I was first learning to fly fish I learned that dry flies were flies that imitated bugs floating on top of the water.  I then learned that files called nymphs imitated bugs that moved along the bottom of the river.  With that knowledge, I was able to talk to people who had been fly fishing for many years and ask them about these 2 types of flies and how they were used.

After reading and talking about these types of files with people, I realized that I could use both fly types to represent a significant portion of an aquatic insect’s lifecycle, thus improving my chances of success on the water.  If the bugs weren’t on top of the water, I could switch to fishing with a nymph, and vice versa.  I now had an understanding of the importance of the roll each of these types of flies played in the overall topic of fly fishing.  I had connected my 2 initial dots about fly fishing.

As I explored the connection of my initial 2 dots, my number of additional fly fishing dots (and connections) began to compound.  I was rapidly on my way to increasing and applying my newly found knowledge of fly fishing.

The next time you feel overwhelmed at the beginning of a new learning process, just focus on identifying 2 dots.  Once you have them, look for the connection.  Then, repeat the process of collecting an additional dot and looking for the connections to the dots you already possess.  You’ll be surprised how quickly your number of dots and connections will increase.

How to Control Your Emotions

Wouldn’t you like to know how to control your emotions?  The bad news is… you can’t.  Emotions are going to occur.  They’re part of being human.  But there is good news:  we get to decide how we respond to them.

I recently listened to a podcast interview with B.A.S.E. jumper Jeb Corliss.  During the interview, he talked about how emotions are our body’s way of trying to get us to do something.  Knowing this, we then have to ask ourselves, in the midst of a strong emotion, “Do I want to respond the way my body is telling me to respond?”  That question is powerful, because it correctly implies that we have a choice whether we’ll act the way our emotions are prompting us, or to choose a different response.

I think this is a game-changing realization for anyone with a pulse!  Just because we’re experiencing an emotion doesn’t mean we have react the way the emotion would guide us.  We get to choose our response, not our emotions.  I love that!

Armed with this common-sense awareness has allowed me to recognize situations this week where an emotion was demanding a specific response.  In those moments, that awareness has helped me to turn off the emotion autopilot and choose a different (and usually more appropriate) response.

For example, my wife and I got a new cat last weekend.  As a result of being stressed out and in an unfamiliar environment, our new family member decided our living room sofa would be a better place to relieve himself than the multiple litter boxes we placed around the house.  Upon realizing he was doing this, I felt several emotions, primarily anger and frustration, which both wanted me to do something, namely wring the cat’s neck and put him on Craig’s List respectively.

What I really wanted to do was yell and complain.  In truth, I actually started down the complaining path.  Then I thought of Jeb’s comment about emotions prompting your body to do something.  I realized pretty quickly that the way I was reacting was NOT the way I wanted to respond.

I then focused my thought on what was causing the cat to do this (being stressed out) and what could I do to begin to relieve some of that stress.  The response after these thoughts were more in line with how I wanted to respond and made me feel much better than I did when I was on autopilot spewing complaints.  I feel like I learned a new life-hack this week that will help me make better decisions in my future years.

Things will go wrong and we’ll have emotional reactions, but that doesn’t mean we’re obligated to move in the directions our emotions prompt us.  Fortunately, we can choose different.

Pay attention to your emotions this week.  If they’re prompting you to react in a negative way, first pause, then decide what your best response would be, and then act accordingly.