“Enough” is the Wrong Measuring Stick
Updated: Aug 29
“It feels like I can’t ever do enough.”
“I wish I felt like that was enough.”
“We can never do enough to meet the need.”
I hear this, and many other variations on that theme, again and again – from folks I coach with, from organizational leaders talking about their work, from friends, reading LinkedIn posts about doing anti-racist work, etc.
They are exhausted, discouraged, frustrated, even despairing sometimes.
And I go there myself.
At 61, I am the primary care-giver for my partner, who has early onset Parkinson’s Disease. I am the in-town kid of two elderly and increasingly fragile parents. I am self-employed, doing work I love, but there is no end to the stuff I could be doing to serve my clients, build my business, and make the work I do more accessible, more relevant, and more effective.
I am also a writer with too little time to write, a musician with too little time to sing, a grandparent who doesn’t see my grandkids nearly as often as I’d like, and, a person who is acutely aware of the enormous needs and injustices in the world and has to fight every day against the sense that my efforts to address those things are wholly inadequate.
I am never going to feel like I, and my efforts, are “enough.”
They are NOT enough, measured against the very real needs and desires in my circles of concern, and even in my direct circles of influence.
Which doesn’t mean I am inadequate.
It means “enough” is the wrong measuring stick.
Asking "Am I doing enough?" just depletes and discourages us -- it takes us into guilt, exhaustion, and discouragement.
It is not useful.
We need a framing that inspires us, and keeps us focused on recognizing and using our gifts and continuing to work diligently to make things better without dangerously depleting ourselves.
What if instead of asking ourselves "Am I doing enough?" (or simply assuming we are not and feeling judgemental about that), we asked:
"Is what I'm doing useful?" (thank you, Laura Halpin) and,
"Am I continuing to learn and grow and get better at what I want to be able to do?”
What would that be like, in our bodies?
How would it change how we feel, about ourselves, our work, and each other?
How would it change what we do? How we make decisions? The outcomes of our efforts?
I’d love to hear what you think in the comments.
This is the type of reframing we'll do in my 6-week coaching group, beginning Oct 12th. Curious? You’ll find more information here: https://facilitatingchange.net/offerings#groups-offered
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© Tasha Harmon, August, 2023 - You are welcome to use this article for your own development, and share it with friends and colleagues. If you wish to use the contents of this article professionally (for work you are getting paid for), or to publish it, please email me, or call me at 503-788-2333, for permission.