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How much is enough?

March 25, 2012

THEY say the right time to stop eating is just before your stomach is full, because it takes a while for the stomach’s message of satiation to reach the brain. So, if you wait till you feel full, you will already have eaten more than what was enough for you.
If you are smart, you will be able to figure out that the right time to stop is while still hungry. If only Deputy Collector Nitish Thakur had heeded that message, he may not have found himself become a shining statistic on our country’s ever-burgeoning corruption stakes — one of the biggest graft catches in India ever! Thirty-six properties and assets worth 118 cr, 10 luxury cars…. Come on, how much does a man need?
When we were kids, a game of Ludo, a carom board, a set of playing cards and some playing dough seemed good enough entertainment. Today, the best battery-operated toys, gizmos and games are acquired from around the world only to be outdated the moment new stuff gets launched. Xbox seemed good enough till Xbox 360 was announced. The iPod, iPad, laptop, car, and TV are all enough only till slightly more updated versions are launched.
In a dizzily consumerist culture, we are not allowed to feel satisfied, and are conditioned to want more, no matter what we already have. And that ‘more’ always exceeds ‘enough’.
The problem is that we allow a hyper-consumerist culture to dictate our needs and definition of enough. It is important to understand that what is enough for one person may just be the first milestone in the journey of desire for another. Why covet what another has when you may have no need for it?
So then how do you know what is enough for you? Just the bare necessities of life? Food, shelter, clothing stabilise things enough to make us reach for something beyond, which marks the difference between existing and living. In order to live well and be on top of life, you need that extra something.
That X-factor varies from person to person. For one it could be money, foranother travel, for yet another, the challenge of forming and running a business. A sense of adventure may attract some, while others may be charmed by the idea of a life of meditative calm — reading, thinking, writing, interacting with friends and loved ones.
But the end result everyone seeks by aiming at ‘enough’ is the same — happiness. When you have what you deem is enough, the one thing it will make you is happy. Or, so you think. So when you keep shifting your goal post of ‘enough’, you also keep shifting back the time when you will be happy and satisfied.
How do we decide what is enough? This can be best done backwards, starting with the end result. Once the basic needs are taken care of, think about what makes you really happy? And in order to be in that space, what do you really need — money, space and time for yourself ? People around you? Helping those less fortunate? Some talent or skill?
Are you earning as much as you need or pushing yourself to get more than ‘enough’? What for? If you were to give up that extra shove and instead, spend that time to pursue what makes you really happy, would your life be better? After all, it would be silly to love money for the sake of it? Are you aware of what you are pursuing all that money for? What do you want it to do for you?
Remember Leo Tolstoy’s popular Russian story “How much land does a man need?” Pahom, a peasant dies exhausted in pursuit of his dream of owning large areas of land. He is rich finally, but now all the land he needs is a sixfoot long grave.

Categories: Motivation
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