(from the archives)
How much is enough? Arguably, this may be one of the most relevant questions of our modern age in the Western world. If we base our evidence on the excessive consumption we see around us there is no doubt about the extraordinary buying power that exists in our world today. But is there a direct correlation between more and happier, and if so how much is enough?
Contrast that by examining happiness among the poor. My own brief experiences of working with those we might consider the poorest of the poor, mostly in Central America, has offered me some insight about this question. Specifically I remember Isabel, a Honduran woman who resides in a deeply impoverished barrio community just outside the city of Tegucigalpa. For a week she and I worked side by side on a project and though we did not speak the same language we became fast friends. At the end of that week as we were saying goodbye Isabel hugged me, then handed me a sweet note written in Spanish on a small tattered card about the size of a business card. I didn’t know what it said but I understood what was meant by her kind gesture. Isabel and her companions were some of the happiest people I’ve ever met, yet they lived in conditions that are unimaginable to most of us.
Mother Teresa of Calcutta, perhaps the most renowned servant of the poor in our modern age, once noted of the Western world, “I have walked at night in your streets; I have entered your homes. I have found in them more poverty than in India.” What she was referring to was not economic poverty, but poverty of the soul. So we ask ourselves, how much is enough?
To live in a place where opportunities abound for financial success is a blessing and a privilege, but what are we to do with our abundance and how much is enough? The greatest reward in my profession as a business and executive coach occurs in helping high achieving successful clients transition their focus from success to significance, from money to meaning. It is then they discover that true enrichment is not obtained by gaining but by giving. So, how much is enough? That depends. But it depends not on how much we have, rather on how much we have to give.