In a Culture of 'more, more and more', even the idea of happiness has turned into an endless quest for more of it, says Tim Stobbs, as he reviews the book Enough by John Naish
We were all introduced to the concept of enough when we were little through stories and fables. Yet in real life the space between too little and too much is such a brief stop that we often miss it entirely. So it was interesting to review a book called Enough: Breaking free from the world of more by John Naish. John goes through this ‘world of more’ in several chapters that look at enough information, food, stuff, work, options, happiness and growth.
What is interesting about the book is that it reminds us that often our tendencies for excess are partly driven by evolutionary instincts that were great for our species for thousands of years, but are killing some of us today. Food is the perfect example of this particular situation. For thousands of years the idea of ‘eat until you want to burst, when you can’ was a good strategy, after all you never knew when the next famine would hit. Yet today with endless ‘all you can eat buffets’, that strategy is literally killing people. A lot of us lack the sense of enough food to stop that cycle
before it gets out of hand. The same idea applies to some extent to information. Marketing companies have spent a fortune trying to understand our brains. Today we are drowning in so much information that even the marketing departments of many companies find it difficult to get their messages into our heads. So what is the solution? This is where the book scores; the author provides a few ideas on knowing when you have hit enough. With information the obvious one is to get on an ‘information diet’. Did you really need to read all those news sites and blogs each day? Likely not, so can you pare down to a smaller number of sites? Perhaps one for national information and another for local content.
There are two other concepts worth mentioning in the book. The first is the fact we have a strange culture towards work, it’s like the option of having part-time work is a problem rather than an obvious solution to a lot of people’s lives. If you can earn a good wage why do you need to work full time? After all at some point the extra money is likely largely going to taxes and buying excess stuff. So don’t forget to consider that when you are looking for a job, the best benefit of all just might be working 80% of the time or whatever number works for you. The other concept in the book worth a mention is the discussion about happiness. In a culture of ‘more, more and more’, even the idea of happiness has turned into an endless quest for more of it. Yet if ask ourselves, what is so wrong with skipping the endless happiness quest and parking yourself instead at contentment most of the time.
Nothing is wrong with that as an ideal. In fact, if you understand how happiness occurs it makes a lot of sense. Case in point, your happiness is largely determined from comparing your baseline to your current experience. Hence if you change your baseline in an attempt to be happier it often fails in the long term, as what used to make you happy now only makes you content instead.
For example, let’s say you drink red wine and your day to day choice is some homemade wine from a decent kit. Then you decide to upgrade to drinking a better wine from the store in order to be happier. The only problem is after a few weeks of store bought wine your taste buds and your mind have adjusted to that new level. It’s now no longer bringing the same level of happiness and instead you are merely content and out some more money. Adaptation can be tricky when it comes to happiness. Overall, the book helps explain several things that probably were known to us vaguely, but we may not have fully grasped the concepts. The book ranks as one of those MUST reads prior to planning a retirement or moving to a low carbon lifestyle. You might just find it easier to get by with a lot less spending than you think you need to, once you understand your own level of enough.