Enough is enough.
When I was a child that’s what my mother used to say when she wanted me to stop doing something…as in “knock it off – enough is enough.”
But used in a different context that phrase can have another meaning.
I recently read a book about the Swedish art of living a happy life. Lagom is a Swedish word that captures the idea of balance in life. Basically it’s about moderation or to quote my mother, knowing when enough is enough.
Apparently the Swedes apply this idea of lagom to everything from eating to decorating their homes to how they approach work and relationships.
For example, you can eat a lagom meal or work a lagom amount.
Generally speaking lagom allows you to tackle life in a more manageable way. It’s not about denying yourself in an uber-minimalist sense. It’s acknowledging that sometimes we over-indulge ourselves to our own detriment. We have too much stuff, eat too much food, and spend too much time plugged in and all of that takes its toll.
I think its best summed up as a Goldilocks way of life – not too little, not too much, just right.Maybe what we all need is a Goldilocks way of life - not too much, not too little, just the right amount of everything. Click To Tweet
Of course the idea that enough is enough prompts an important question:
How much is enough?
That depends entirely on your own perspective.
In other words, lagom is not a one size fits all notion.
It’s more about moving through life at your own pace, with your own set of parameters of what enough looks like.
What is lagom for me might not be lagom for you.
It seems to me that in order to truly embrace a Goldilocks approach to living actually requires one to have a serious conversation with one’s self about what I’ll call “enoughness”.
In a media world that encourages us to have more, do more, be more, we get the impression that there is never enough.
The busier our days are, the less time we have for meaningful conversations and experiences. We fill that space instead with the instant gratification of more and more stuff.
So exactly how much is enough for you?
A wise person once asked me, “If you have one bowl of soup, one set of clothes, and one roof over your head, what more do you need?”
That prompts a good enoughness conversation starter:
Given your current situation, what more do you actually need?
And…what would actually make you feel satisfied – full if you will – with life?
It seems to me that unless you know the answer to those questions, then over-indulging in any way is kind of pointless. More won’t fill you up. If what you really want is Häagen-Dazs ice cream, then no amount of low fat dairy substitute is going to satisfying you. Enough, and what it means to each of us, is very specific.
It’s also important to realize that enoughness is a fluid concept.
Oscar Wilde famously said everything in moderation, including moderation.
I don’t get the sense that Swedes live a Spartan lifestyle. Sometimes what’s lagom is a big indulgence. In some circumstances enough might be a whole lot.
In the end though, lagom is bigger than one person and how our personal definition of enough. Seems to me at the heart of this Goldilocks way of life is a deep appreciation of equity and reciprocity. Enough also reflects our participation in a community – whether it’s our family or our neighbourhood or our city or country or the whole world.
In that sense this might be a good guiding principle:
Take want you need and give what you can.
Just like Goldilocks, you might have to try some things on to find out what is just right for you.
Be brave enough to have an enoughness conversation with yourself.
Cut back on what is too much.
Expand what is not enough.
Lagom your way to a more balanced life.