SufficiencyJune 10, 2010 7 Comments
There’s something about the word and notion of “sufficiency” that I love. Years ago, while living in France, I learned to enjoy the way the words “ça suffit” roll off the tongue. The term and idea resurfaced for me recently when I learned about the Third Annual Global Sufficiency Summit that was held here in Cambridge, MA in April. It has come up again while reading the newest book by Wayne Muller, whose writings were a helpful guide to me during my time in graduate school. Muller’s A Life of Being, Having, and Doing Enough focuses squarely on the question of how we go about determining what is sufficient in different areas of our lives. He suggests that our failure to consider or know how to address this question has contributed to putting us in individual and collective dire straits.
“We have forgotten what enough feels like,” Muller writes. And as we are constantly pandered to by endless purveyors of solutions for leading the good or right life, we can easily be led astray. The result can be a pursuit of more, more, more, fueled by an underlying and sinking feeling of just not measuring up. Whether we are talking about time, money, belongings, (Twitter) followers, (Facebook and good old fashioned) friends, love, acclaim, or accomplishment, the inability to determine what is enough for oneself, one’s organization, or community in any given moment (because it surely does change) can seemingly have far-ranging effects. I’m wondering how much of the chronic busy-ness and feelings of overwhelm in our sector and social change work in general are due to the loss of our inner determiner of what is sufficient and to not consciously engaging in conversation with others about this.
The following passage from the book has become a focus of ongoing reflection for me:
“Enough, then, is a verb, a conversation, a fugue, a collaboration. It is not a static state, something achieved or accomplished. It is relational, by nature unpredictable, punctuated by wonder, surprise, and awe. It may feel dangerous and inefficient. It demands we stay awake, pay attention to what is true in this moment, in our hearts, and make our choices always and only from that place.”
What is clear to me is that being able to gracefully dance with the question “How much is enough?” is critical to my health, my contributions as a consultant, colleague, citizen, neighbor, friend, husband, father, brother and son, and to my deepest sense of contentment and contribution. And I wonder how this question sits with others. How have you gone about determining sufficiency in your life, leadership, and change work and why and how does this matter?