The Paradox of Enoughness

Life in the Postmodern Shift

September 28, 2022 | Opinion | Volume 26 Issue 20
Troy Watson | Columnist
(Photo by op23/Unsplash)

In an episode of the television show The Simpsons, Homer complimented his boss, Mr. Burns, on being the richest person he knew. Mr Burns replied, “Ah yes, but I’d trade it all away. . . for a little more.”

This desire for more, no matter how much we have, is part of the human condition. Regardless of how much we experience, learn, achieve or possess, it never seems like enough.

The concept of the hedonic treadmill refers to the observation that people consistently return to their default level of happiness, regardless of what happens to them. Our happiness levels rise and fall temporarily, with positive and negative experiences and events, but they quickly return to our baseline level. This is why the boost of happiness we experience when we finally get that new job, car, house or relationship, is short-lived. Before we know it, we’re feeling the same discontentment and desire as before, looking forward to the next new thing or event to bring us another boost.

Another theory, called Parkinson’s Second Law, proposes that expenses always increase in proportion to income growth, because our expectations and desires rise in tandem, resulting in no permanent increase in happiness. Our lifestyles rise in proportion to our cash flow, and our financial baseline—or what we “need” to live—increases to match our income.

Yet another theory, Parkinson’s (First) Law, states, “Work expands to fill the time allotted for its completion.” Just as our desires and expenses increase proportionally with our income, the time it takes to complete our work increases to match how much time we have.

British journalist Oliver Burkeman elaborates on this theme in his book Four Thousand Weeks: “It’s the definition of ‘what needs doing’ that expands to fill the time available. Rendering yourself more efficient—either by implementing various productivity techniques or by driving yourself harder—won’t generally result in the feeling of having ‘enough time,’ because, all else being equal, the demands will increase to offset any benefits. . . . The technologies we use to try to ‘get on top of everything’ always fail us, in the end, because they increase the ‘size of the everything’ of which we’re trying to get on top.”

All this is to say, there’s a reason you feel like there’s never enough time or money. Because, on one level, it’s true. None of us have enough time (and 99 percent of us don’t have enough money) to do, see, experience and accomplish everything we would like to do.

When we accept this reality, that we will never do or have “enough,” we are liberated to see the pursuit of “enough” for the Sisyphean task it is. This awareness opens us up to the other side of what I call the Paradox of Enoughness. It not only frees us from trying to live up to the impossible expectation of doing and having enough, it also frees us to experience the “enoughness” of the present moment—the “enoughness” of what is.

In Psalm 23, David declares, (my paraphrase): “When God is my companion and guide, there is nothing I want. I don’t experience desire. I lack nothing, because God’s presence helps me notice the beauty of ‘what is,’ the beauty of nature, rivers, trees and meadows around me, and appreciate the ‘enoughness’ of the moment.”

David is not alone. Many people have experienced this profound “enoughness” of life that comes with the awareness of God with us, within us and all around us.

Paul declares in II Corinthians (my paraphrase): “God’s grace is more than enough for you. For God’s power is perfected in your vulnerability.”

Embracing our vulnerability is, in part, accepting that we will never have, do or be enough to satisfy our own expectations and desires, or the demands others place upon us. When we accept this reality, we engage our vulnerability, which is the wellspring through which God’s power flows into our lives. As a result, we are paradoxically liberated to discover the “enoughness” of everything, including ourselves, in the present moment.

This new awareness does not eradicate our desire and need to learn, grow and become our best self possible. Quite the opposite. For it is only as we accept our “enoughness,” as we are, that we are truly free and able to grow and change. And it is only through our awareness of the “enoughness” of our present reality, as it is, that we experience a sustainable increase of happiness, peace and contentment.

Troy Watson ( is the Pastor of Paradoxy.

Read more Life in the Postmodern Shift columns:
In the tension
My opinion on opinions
‘Godfidence’ and confidence
Christ in you
Good Friday and the important travel companion

(Photo by op23/Unsplash)

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