Measuring “Enough”: Exploring a Better Way to Think About Achievement
Growth rules the minds of most entrepreneurs and founders, but are we focused on growth just for the sake of it?
Are we reaching for unattainable goals because of passion for our projects, or is it just because we can and don’t know what else to do? There are thousands of examples of entrepreneurs’ lives getting fully consumed by their work. Simply open up Netflix and you’ll find biopics and films about people who pushed too much and too far in their careers, damaging others’ lives, ruining their own social lives, and effectively destroying any form of personal homeostasis that they might have had if they had lived more mindfully.
Deterministic goals (like saying: “I want to do ______ by ______”) spark innovation and push the world forward, but this ultra-focus on attaining more isn’t always healthy. Unbridled growth can be a cancer, destroying anything in its path toward more. So, what’s the alternative? How else can we better lead our lives toward fulfillment?
A better way to think about achievement
If you’re a runner, it’s easy to measure your goals. How far did you run? How fast? For how long? How many times per week? How many calories did you burn? How many steps did you take? How many races? Which types of races?
But have you asked yourself why you are running? What’s the purpose?
In one scenario, you may have a clearly defined goal: “To complete my first marathon.” Once you sign up for the marathon, you have a deadline, and you work backward from it to create your training plan: a combination of long runs, rest, and cross-training over an 18-week period.
But what if you don’t have a clear goal? What if you just want to feel healthier without ties to difficult metrics that make you feel defeated, worthless, or guilty when you don’t reach them? What if the point isn’t necessarily setting personal records and getting better and better, but instead just feeling good?
In this second scenario, when you tell people you’re a runner, they might ask: “How many times per week do you run?” In their heads, they expect you to reach their personal criteria, and maybe you don’t do this. But it doesn’t matter. These thresholds don’t exist outside of their heads. There’s no definition saying, “A runner is a human who runs at least four times per week, with an average distance of 2.4 miles, with an average pace of 8:19 per mile.” If you run, and you consider yourself a runner, you are a runner. And if you ran today, you completed your goal.
Enough means “as much or as many as required.” A sufficient amount.
Who defines enough? You can allow others to label and define it by their expectations, or you can define it yourself. When you measure the subjective, achieving enough is a binary condition. It either happened, or it didn’t. Zeros and ones. You’re satisfied, or you’re not. Pursuing enough requires you to consider the purpose of the activity: “Why am I doing this?”
When you focus on reaching enough—instead of reaching an outsized accomplishment—you can take a more holistic approach to your life, making room in your life for yourself, your relationships, and your work. In other words, you can make room for what matters to you.
Enough for ourselves
For me, enough exercise means moving my body and increasing my blood flow. On most days, enough is a brisk walk. I either did it, or I didn’t. On weekends, I may go hiking. That’s enough. On other days, I may go bouldering with a friend. That’s enough. It isn’t about reaching a specific number. It’s about being an active person.
Through the lens of enough, I track four core habits every day:
- To feel present, aware, and calm every day, I meditate.
- To feel alert, energized, and clear every day, I give myself an eight hour sleep opportunity per night.
- To learn from others and upgrade my perspective on the world, I read books or listen to Audible.
- To live a long life and have more energy, I walk, run, hike or climb.
When I’m actively exercising these habits, I’m living the way I want to live: staying present, aware, calm, energized, clear, grateful, open, and fit. And it’s not always exact. Sometimes I meditate for five minutes; sometimes, thirty. What matters is that I do enough to feel good.
Enough in our relationships
My family and I set expectations to spend conscious, attentive, and directed mental energy towards each other because each of our primary love languages is quality time. By doing this, we don’t fall into the trap of “getting around to it.”
On Mondays, my son and I share dedicated *us* time, and on Tuesdays, my partner and I do date night. The other days are more flexible, but this ensures that no matter what, we’re intentional about committing to at least one night per week. We value personal engagement, and although they might be obvious in our minds, when we communicate our feelings with our goals in mind, we learn from and grow with each other.
So, what is “enough”? It’s the amount of time, engagement, and relationship capital required to feel connected as a family, to impress important life lessons to my son, and to maintain a lightness or sense of play with each other.
Enough in our work
Teams can also use the concept of enough. Asking employees personal questions—“Do you feel fulfilled in your jobs?” “Are your needs being met?” “Do you feel connected to the purpose of the company?”—helps leadership connect with their teams at the individual level. And when this is done in the workplace on a weekly basis, coworkers from all levels interact in a more human manner.
Now, some of you might be thinking, Okay, feeling good is awesome and checking in on teams is great, but this is a business and things need to get done. And in our increasingly optimized world, why is measuring the subjective so important?
The reason is, it gives every team member full control to express how they are feeling in the moment. Each answer uniquely represents each person, providing a platform for everyone. This emphasizes each team member’s individualism, clarifies their opinions, and makes them feel heard. And when team members feel emotionally respected, they perform better.
Okay, so valuing the feelings of employees seems like a good idea, but what’s the point of measuring the subjective in an objective way at all?
By measuring feelings objectively, we can (1) focus on the people in our organizations and (2) benefit from tracking, trending, observation, and goal-setting. Quantitative data tracks the ins and outs of organizational productivity, but it misses the personal element of business. If we want to live in a world where we feel valued and heard on a regular basis, we must devise systems to actively measure feelings like we measure supply chains.
Were you heard or were you not? This must be reported on the individual level, and the aggregations must come with context. If on average, seven people feel good in a ten-person company, we must understand the underlying data—maybe one to two people are consistently unhappy, and every couple of weeks someone different is unhappy in the short term. By tracking this subjective data and asking why these team members are unhappy, we can directly manage these problems. Is there a bad work relationship? Are they not engaged? Is something bleeding in from their personal life?
Emphasizing fulfillment like this allows leaders to look after the whole, individual person instead of just the employee, and when leaders embrace this task, they embrace the human side of the business.
Feeling good, connected, and fulfilled can be enough in itself.