“I feel like I’m being pulled in all directions and I’m doing everything badly! I feel guilty the whole time that I should be doing something else, and I’m exhausted.”

As a leadership and life coach, I hear words like these frequently – so many of us feel as if we aren’t enough somehow, or that we can never do enough to fulfil the demands on us.

In our current digital age we have collectively bought into the myth that we have to be immediately responsive and always available whatever time of day or night it is. So many of us can get pulled out of shape by striving for perfection which is a fantasy, or trying to prove ourselves in ways that can lead us to massively overextend. This way of living and working unchecked is at best unhealthy and at worst can lead to exhaustion and burnout.

Which is why we need a big re-set. Taking our foot off the pedal, aiming for average, and re-claiming the concept of ‘enough’ is the path to a happier, healthier and more balanced life. Re-claiming enough from its association with settling for second best and thinking of it instead as a pathway to contentment.

This involves making friends with the idea of limits. In today’s world limits get a bit of a bad rap. We’re encouraged to think that it’s a good thing to work long hours, or never stop until we’ve achieved perfection, or that we always need more money, time or stuff. But whether we like it or not, limits exist in our lives. There are 24 hours in the day and as living beings we have to re-plenish ourselves with food, water and sleep. So instead of seeing limits as restrictive, it’s healthier to see them as enablers – the facilitators of us living the healthy, happy lives we want to. I liken limits to a plant pot – they contain us and help us to grow. When we think of them in this way, it can give us permission to put in place the boundaries that we all so desperately need in order to flourish.

Re-claiming the idea of enough also helps us to focus on what we have rather than what we lack. We move from a sense of scarcity – that we don’t have enough of whatever we need – to a state of fullness where we do have enough. Lots of us over stretch ourselves in order to compensate for feelings of inadequacy – driving us to proove ourselves to be as good as the next person, or to pursue the curse of perfectionism. When we focus our attention, day in, day out, to what we do have – whether that’s internal capacity or external stuff – it changes everything. We start to appreciate who we are and what we have, rather than criticise it. We can feel grateful for what we have in our lives rather than wish we had more.

Lots of us rush around feeling pulled in all directions without remembering that we can choose how we live. Being busy can be an ingrained habit that is hard to break. So taking some time out to focus on what you really want can be very helpful. Remembering that we have choices about how much time and effort we give to a task can be very liberating – because it gives us permission to stop. Aiming for average is a completely legitimate option – because it gives us the chance to give our time to other things that matter to us. So get clear about what YOU want to do – say no for the bigger yes!

Practices to help you aim for average – and find the ‘art of enough’

Set your own limits.

Remember that you can choose what time, effort and energy you give to everything you do – and sometimes doing less, means that you can give more to things that are more important to you.

Keep a gratitude diary.

Focus on what you have, not what you lack. Write down 3 things each day that you are grateful for. This moves us from a focus on striving to a focus on thriving.

Keep an ‘I did it list’.

Appreciate the progress – however small – you have made at the end of each day. This is a great way of giving you a real feeling of satisfaction. You did enough – well done!

Fall in love with stopping.

Like an artist painting a picture, it can be easy to over paint and never stop – always in search of that final touch. But there’s nothing quite like putting the metaphorical brush down and saying ‘that’s good enough’. Savour the moment when you stop.

First published in Candis magazine.

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