Provision #432: Reach For Enough
Work / Life Balance is a 360 affair. There are many variables to consider, all
of which have to be kept in the air. This makes the project hard enough; it
becomes impossible when we introduce extreme expectations into the mix. Without
a clear idea of how much is enough when it comes to our needs and goals, we will
always find ourselves tilting in one direction or another. Balance comes when we
define and reach for our own brand of success.
We live in confusing times. In many ways, we have never had it so good. Yet, it
is common to feel unsatisfied like something is missing. In today's world of
unlimited choices, it is easy to fall into a state of compulsive dissatisfaction
always needing to do and have more. The result can be a Work / Life Balance that
feels overextended and unsatisfying.
Most people gain a sense of satisfaction from achieving and enjoying their
successes. But what, exactly, is our definition of success? Is it enough to
satisfy us? And are we making the most of life as we reach for it?
In this issue, we consider reaching for the kind of success that meets our needs
and provides us with ongoing satisfaction while in pursuit of success.
Achieving success on our terms requires us to sharpen our idea of what we are
aiming for. Instead of trying to have it all and do it all, we aim for what is
"enough" to satisfy our needs. When we go beyond what is "enough", we waste our
passion, energy, and enjoyment at the expense of our other needs.
The term "enough" has come to represent mediocrity, like saying "She only put in
enough effort to get by." When viewed this way, many of us (me included) are
downright afraid of it. We fear that having "enough" means settling for less or
losing our competitive edge and ambition. But what if we started to demand that
our successes be "enough" to satisfy us?
Reaching for "enough" does not mean we should settle for mediocrity. It does not
mean that we should settle for less or cut back our aspirations. Cutting back at
work or home may only result in disconnecting us from our passions. High
achievers don't do that because it does not satisfy. Rather, they have a
definition of "enough" across the range of their needs. Reaching real and deeply
satisfying success in our work and life is reaching for "enough".
"We are losing our capacity to define a reasoned sense of enough", say Laura
Nash and Howard Stevenson from the Harvard Business School. In their book
Just Enough, Nash and Stevenson studied many high achievers to understand
how satisfying success is created.
Their study selected high achievers who had reached success on scores that most
of us keep. However, the high achievers also had to hold multiple goals driven
by various emotional needs, like the rest of us, so they were not people who
gave up family for the sake of a career. Instead, they chose talented people who
work hard and also have a life.
Apart from being high achievers, these people demonstrated an ability to enjoy
happiness and pleasure in their life; a desire to contribute to something
besides themselves; the ability to display a sense of humanity by valuing the
worth of others; and the perseverance to sustain these qualities for the
Nash and Stevenson studied people like the CEO who genuinely wanted to improve
some social condition, to contribute to the wellbeing and success of her
workers, while also improving her own power and fortune. They also chose
schoolteachers, artists, and many people who fit this balanced approach.
One myth the high achievers immediately debunked was that the success is "only"
about Winning Big. This limited criteria for success ignores the fact that
people and organisations have multiple needs. A company that places profit as
the only criteria for success fails to grow. Executives who place power and
money as their only criteria eventually feel empty. Stay-at-home parents who
limit their criteria to family service alone may feel that their other needs are
The high achievers shared the ability to be realistic. They had developed a
skill for knowing which limits to break and which to accept, so they could reach
success and satisfaction sooner. They avoided modeling their success on the
highly published Celebrity Successes that flood our success literature.
Nash and Stevenson say that our success literature is letting us down because of
its obsession with Celebrity Success Thinking. This kind of thinking, while
extremely popular, is flawed. It is cheating us out of the satisfaction we
Celebrity Success Thinking fails to satisfy because it relies on stories of
limit-busting, maximised performance. If we base our success on these, sometimes
questionable, performances, the score only starts counting at the limits of
maximum achievement. This leaves many organisations and individuals with a large
territory for failure before achieving any sense of success. Nash and Stevenson
provide a welcome reality check by saying, "It's easy to feel stupid when you
compare yourself to the celebrity successes."
So how do we move away from a mentality of limitless Maximisation and Celebrity
Success without dropping out?
The answer is in finding our definition of "enough", and only we can do that.
But before we can, we need to debunk Maximisation because there is no maximum,
there is always "more". Blindly raising the bar without limits makes us
inflexible by pursuing some targets long after it makes sense to do so. Next, we
need to ditch the idea of Celebrity Success (even in small forms) because it is
not "enough" to satisfy us. Instead, we can define and reach for what is
"enough" to satisfy our many needs.
So, how do we know if we are following our definition of "enough" or someone
else's? The answer is in how we feel when we reach a success goal. If it is
enough, we will feel deep and lasting satisfaction. If it is never enough, we
will soon start to feel empty again. We may then blame that empty feeling on not
having enough, when we really have the wrong idea of "enough".
Say, for example, we finally buy that speedboat but, before long, our
satisfaction fades into a feeling of emptiness. If this happens, perhaps we were
not following our definition of "enough" in the first place. Knowing the
difference can save us a lot of time, money, and lost opportunity to enjoy
Reaching for "enough" is not just about defining quantity. It must define the
quality of the content we are aiming for. When we define both content and
quantity, we become clear on exactly what we want and how much of it is required
to satisfy us. This is how "enough" can expand our satisfaction without needing
to have or do it all, or to always go for the max.
Using "enough" as our game plan, someone may surpass us on one dimension, but
having a multidimensional strategy assures us we are working on reaching our
definition of success. Knowing this, we accept and even welcome it when our
performance goes up or down in one area while we attend to other needs. It's the
big picture versus the small picture, the big win that doesn't really satisfy
versus the many wins that really do satisfy.
For example, our income may drop while we re-skill ourselves or decide to raise
a family, or it may rise while we seize an opportunity to get ahead, or we may
spend less while we channel extra income into our retirement. Is all of this
normal? Absolutely! Will there be consequences? Of course! Handling them is part
of managing our Work / Life Balance with a reasoned sense of "enough".
To satisfy and enjoy our ideal Work / Life Balance, we cannot simply go for the
extremes of an oversimplified, single dimension life, or one where everything is
maximised in celebrity fashion. Being an ideal dad, a great husband, and a
celebrity executive is a tough (if not impossible) task and always has been.
Giving everything to only one goal and expecting complete satisfaction is just
We have multiple needs that demand regular satisfaction. By defining "enough"
right across the range of our needs and goals, we avoid neglecting any of them.
We set ourselves up to reach our own brand of success. From there we can build
on success and switch to the next need.
We will only ever have "enough" when we decide what "enough" is. And it will
only ever be "enough" if it addresses all of our needs. Pursuing our own
definition of success takes vision, confidence and commitment. We will build on
this in our next issue as we experiment with setting our strategy for our Work /
Coaching Inquiries: What exactly is your sense of enough? What will it take for
you to be satisfied? Is it reachable, or does it have hidden celebrity elements?
How could you begin to define "enough" across the needs, areas and people in
your life that matter?
This Provision, and each Provision in our series on Work / Life Balance, is
written by Michael J. Alafaci of
www.SolutionMaps.com • Copyright
Solution Maps 2005. All
rights reserved. You can contact Mike by
or phone, in Australia, at 61-7-3311-5361.
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LifeTrek Readers' Forum (selected feedback from the past week)
Editor's Note: The LifeTrek Readers' Forum contains selections from the comments
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I have to tell you I am really impressed by the whole series on Work / Life
Balance. It often seems like you are looking at my life when writing and I am
guessing many others are thinking the same thing. I am challenged to enact the
ideas you promote. I feel I have been making progress over the last year in
this regard and your articles help keep me focused.
I have been reading our Provisions for a while now and I love them. Thanks!
May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.
Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC
President, LifeTrek Coaching International,
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformation,
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coaching,
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a Time,
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