Our culture in the US is … tough right now. We are more competitive and combative with each other than ever and the space for common ground seems to have evaporated. I am not just talking about politics. I am talking about work, kindness, economic realities, compassion for others, empathy, and just general daily life — things at the micro level not just the macro level. People seem so stressed and moments of happiness elusive. (Maybe it’s just me but I don’t think so.)
So I started reading a book that a friend recommended. It’s called Atlas of Happiness by Helen Russell. It’s about the concept of happiness and how it is felt and expressed and lived in different countries. Like “Pura Vida” in Costa Rica and “Fair Go” in Australia and “Wabi-Sabi” in Japan. And it struck me that a core part of the concept of happiness in other cultures is the feeling that you have “enough” and the security that it will be there in the future.
Having enough. Not having excessively too much. Not having too little. But having enough. Goldilocks.
And feeling secure that it will be there in the future. That the rug won’t be pulled out from under you. That you have a cushion. That you are ok now and that you are going to be ok in the future.
What Does “Enough” Mean To You? And What Makes You Feel Secure?
And I started thinking about the US culture where it seems like nothing is ever enough and where we strive for more more more all of the time. After all, this drive for more and more and more fuels our economy. And our competitive instincts to win lead us to strive for more to be able to beat others. And right now, it seems even more pronounced with people operating from a scarcity mindset and not feeling secure about having “enough.” It seems that we are playing a zero-sum game where if you win, I lose. And nobody likes to feel like a loser, so we compete and run the other person over before they can run us over as we seek to have enough now and try to feel secure that we have enough in the future too.
And it made me wonder what our culture would be like if each of us had “enough” and if each of us felt secure in knowing that we would have enough in the future. After all, this is a country with amazing human and natural resources and astonishing wealth. But even with all of that we don’t feel like we have enough and we definitely don’t feel secure about it.
Which leads me to think that the definition of “enough” is very personal. And the definition of “feeling secure” is also very personal.
So that’s what I’m trying to figure out now. What is “enough” for me?
Our cultural conditioning would suggest that there is never enough and there is always something more to acquire and achieve. But I am happy with an apartment (not 2 or 20 apartments and not a house), dignified work with a wage that allows me to pay my bills, a park to walk and run in, space to breathe, opportunities to create, good food, clean water, and some good people in my life.
And what does “feeling secure” mean to me? Our cultural conditioning would suggest that feeling secure means having a big retirement account. But I think my sense of security comes owning a home and being in relationships with people who will cushion me as I will cushion them as needed (and in a full life, it’s going to be needed at some point). I have some more thinking to do about this to be honest.
I encourage you to seek to understand what does “enough” mean to you and where does your feeling of security come from? Those are two HUGE life questions. And then I encourage you to pursue those things rather than the things that everyone else tells you to pursue.
(I advise focusing particularly on the question of “where does your feeling of security come from.” I found it easier to think about the “enough” question but the “feeling of security question was harder. And I always want to dive into the stuff that is hard to really understand!)