Recently, I helped plan and serve the evening meal at a local homeless shelter. The faces going through the line could have been anyone – my niece, my father, my friend, myself. Whatever circumstances landed those individuals at the shelter that evening, I can only imagine what would it would have taken for them to feel fulfilled that evening.
Thinking about the people at the shelter left me feeling grateful for the fact that I have a roof over my head, food on my table and my family by my side. Yet, I have so much more than enough; I have luxuries most people in the world could only dream about – a car, computer, yard, refrigerator, bathroom…
And more often than not, life goes along without significant interruptions. Every day is full of the same – get up, go to work/school, come home, eat dinner, evening activities…repeat.
The Threshold of Enough
When basic needs are met, we have the tendency to focus on the next great thing, distracting us from the present moment. Our health, job, home, family and friends can easily be taken for granted.
At this point, when all is right with the world, we tend to raise the bar for the threshold of enough.
Boredom sets in and desire starts to stir. We want more of what our neighbors have and buy shiny, new things to make us feel more alive and keep us entertained.
The threshold of enough is ever changing, depending on what’s going on in our lives at the time.
When the unexpected happens, our lives are thrown into an uproar. The threshold of enough is lowered and our only desire is to return life to it’s original state of comfort.
Feeling well after being sick, eating when we’re hungry, feeling warmth when we’re chilled, and sleeping when we’re exhausted can leave us feeling fulfilled at the moment.
But, why do we quickly forget how happy we were with simple things, such as absence of pain or illness?
How do we stop from longing for the bigger house, car, bank account, early retirement, or new clothes?
What can we do to stop focusing on the future and live contentedly, right here in the present?
When I think of the happiest times in my life, the to-do lists and schedules disappear, leaving enjoyable experiences and time spent with loved ones. My best memories are of traveling with my family and the adventures we’ve had over the years, not the day to day busyness that fills our lives.
The practice of mindfulness keeps our threshold of enough in check.
Mindfulness requires intentional focus on the present moment.
“Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience.” –Psychology Today
Easier said than done, right? How do you incorporate mindfulness into your busy life on a day to day basis?
When you open a door, drop your train of thought outright (you can pick it up again shortly) and watch your hand grasp the doorknob. Pull the door open with purpose and patience. Feel its weight. Watch as a new scene is revealed. Feel the new air of the room you are entering. Listen to the sound of the first room give way to the sound of the new room. Feel this transition with undivided attention.” – David, Raptitude
Simply practice mindfulness when you do these two things every single day. Yes, you have to remember and put in the work of performing the task. But when you do, mindfulness becomes a habit, spilling over to other times, bringing you back to the present more frequently every day.
The ability to distinguish the difference between desire and true fulfillment is the key to recognizing your own threshold of enough.
Knowing what adds to your own personal fulfillment, in addition to recognizing the point when nothing additional will add value, helps you decide when you have reached the point of enough.
Developing this internal benchmark guides you to stop seeking more when you have enough and leads to greater happiness.
Whether it’s food or money or things, if you don’t know, from an internal standard, what is enough, then you will pass directly from “not enough” to “too much”, with “enough” being like a little whistle-stop town. You blink and you’ve missed it”. – From Your Money or Your Life
How do you know when you’ve reached the threshold of enough? What contributes most to your sense of fulfillment?