Just Enough

I left a job as creative director when I was pregnant with Egan. It was the right decision, and while I’ve missed aspects of work, Egan and I, and in fact Scott and Kaki have all really benefited from my being home. All the same, for the past two years, I’ve been trying to leverage some of my time home to prepare for work when Egan starts kindergarten. The first plan was to have the Magics busy enough to need me managing them with the additional time (and for the additional income) when Egan started school. By the time it became apparent that that scenario wasn’t going to play out, I had a contract on the books with a publicity plan that had me working on book promotion in September if not well before. Now that plan was shot too, and with my exciting trip behind me, I felt like a failure on the professional front with little exciting to look forward to, and while I was still going through the motions, I felt flat and pathetic inside.

I’m going to give you my version of the ideas put forth in the book, because as I ran threm through my own weird filters and paradigms, I found them interesting and useful. If you want an non Sky-ized version, it’s called Just Enough by Laura Nash and Howard Stevenson.

Their thesis is that we all need to four different kind of satisfactions- they call them happiness, achievement, significance and legacy. Specifically, that we need at least some of all four kinds on a fairly frequent basis, and that rather than concentrating exclusively on developing the sort of skills that make us successful in business and trying to bring those skills to bear in our recreation and interpersonal relationships, that what we need to do is recognize the sense of “just enough” fulfillment in each quadrant and move, daily or even hourly through these incommiserate satisfactions.

With apologies to my engineer friend who’s cautioned me off the lure of any two-by-two graphing of anything, I found it useful, because it’s allowed some light on what exactly I’ve been feeling like I’m missing. I have very little to show for the last 5 years in the public success arena that they’re calling “achievement” but that I think of as “glory” in the ancient Greek usage of the word meaning “recognition with praise” They talk about it as something done in competition with or against others, a sense of mastery, of being accomplished or good at something to the extent that you’re better than the average monkey doing it.  It’s where we get our public power, we win, we’re successful, we make money. And this was really useful for me because yes, I’ve accomplished things during this time. I’ve raised children, and kept the house clean, I’ve written quite a lot and started not one, but two business ventures. But none of these things have made much money, and while I know that’s not the only measure of success, none of them have succeeded in any competitive, public, recognition-earning way.

It was really useful to me to see myself as falling short in that one area, and understanding my less-than-complete happiness as being not unhappy, but simply missing satisfaction in this one area. Very liberating. I like being able to interrogate feelings of dissatisfaction against this metric, and in fact, I’ve made some additional early notes on what my ideal version of fulfillment would be in each quadrant and what implications I’ve noticed of not getting enough in each area. When I haven’t been working enough in the upper left quadrant- the transcendence area- for example, I feel hungry and needy, addictive, insatiable. As though I’m trying to fill up my Happiness quota with candy.   Failures in the Impact area, on the opposite diagonal have left me, at their worst, feeling stuck in a rut, useless, afraid of death, afraid of change, and not sure that I actually matter. I haven’t had much of this recently. Something about raising children makes you less likely to question your impact. I know I echo.

Mostly, though, I think I need to give some strong thought to creating real goals for the upper right area- warrior goals, goals about winning. And just writing that stirs up in me deeply ingrained twinges of “ladies don’t fight to win” and other resistances that I didn’t know I had to the ideas of competition and achievement. I think it will be good for me to take the risks involved in actually competing.  Yes, I can be happy even if I don’t achieve my goals in this area, but I think it will really stretch me to try, and I expect the trying itself will be educational and energizing. It’s also helped me shake a nagging sense of loserness. I’m not pathetic, I’m well accomplished in pleasure and service and legacy. In fact I’m very happy in those quadrants more days than not, so happiness is still very available to me, even right now. It’s just not a complete happiness yet.

I drew this up, it overlays their quadrants with one of Ken Wilber’s and one of Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi’s with a little of the Michael teachings sprinkled in for good measure.


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