When will it ever be enough? Sometimes I obsess about wanting more money, sometimes about more email followers, sometimes about more coaching clients, sometimes about more dating prospects. Though the truth is, I have more than enough of all of the above and don’t need more. Let’s call the phenomenon the unhappy numbers game.
It’s good, by the way, to get caught up in the games that come with being human every once in a while. It helps you to understand other humans. Like the case of the Silicon Valley multimillionaires, written about in the New York Times a while back, who continue to work their butts off to get even larger wads of cash. As the Times reports, many of them feel worried to death that they still don’t have enough and toil for the day when they do. A couple of quotes from the story:
- “Everyone around here looks at the people above them,” said Gary Kremen, the 43-year-old founder of Match.com, a popular online dating service. “It’s just like Wall Street, where there are all these financial guys worth $7 million wondering what’s so special about them when there are all these guys worth in the hundreds of millions of dollars.”
- Along with two partners, [Celeste Baranski] founded a software company, Vitamin D, and already she is resigned to the sleepless nights and other stresses that await her. “I ask myself all the time,” Ms. Baranski confessed, “why I do this.”
- “Here, the top 1 percent chases the top one-tenth of 1 percent, and the top one-tenth of 1 percent chases the top one-one-hundredth of 1 percent,” [Umberto Milletti] said. “You try not to get caught up in it,” he added, “but it’s hard not to.”
I worry a lot about this keeping-up-with-Jones’s stuff because I believe that many of us compulsively work our butts off to get more stuff—which means more resources have to be dug out of the planet’s guts and more pollutants have to be vomited into the air, earth and water. And what stings is the fact that we often find out that getting more isn’t making us happier.
The solution, according to the Times, for an unhappy Silicon Valley millionaire? Get even more, because the problem must be still not having enough. It’s just a matter of buckling down to become a billionaire.
Which brings me back to my own obsessions. Once you have enough and you find yourself wanting more than enough, it is never going to make you happy. And then all that happens is, when more than enough is not enough, you think it is because you need more than more than enough. The treadmill never stops. The worst thing is, while you are putting all your effort into that, you don’t have time for the things that will actually make you happy.
How to quit the unhappy numbers game? I try to remind myself to stop running from my insecurities and fears, to see them for what they are (illusions), and to have faith in what is. The Buddhists call it returning to the moment. The Christian’s call it trusting in God’s will. The shrinks might call it getting rid of anxiety. The Tao te Ching just says that a man who knows that enough is enough will always have enough.
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Image of woman on a treadmill courtesy of Inmagine