This week I‘m having a blast designing a business storytelling class for a client, interspersed with writing my blog. Working on two deadlines, I’ve had to ask myself:

How much is enough?

The question isn’t that straightforward. I’m always tempted to try to do more than I need to.

Years ago, in a meditation group, I learned the concept: “No more, no less.”  The idea is that you should give–or do–as much as you can with the caveat: no more and no less.  Discernment is key.

With both my training work and the blog, I want to give a lot. When I teach, I want to be well prepared and not caught short.

But how do I determine what’s enough? I don’t have an easy metric I can turn to.

Women, I believe, end up doing more than we need to out of a fear that we aren’t quite enough. (Guys, you’ll have to tell me if this applies to you.)

Tara Mohr, the wise-beyond-her-years author of Playing Big, talks about all the ways the inner critic can sneak up and tell us we’re not enough. That critic is a nasty, sniveling killjoy, who’s easy to recognize when she uses her judgmental, demeaning, “it’s all or nothing” tone of voice. At other times she’s sneakier, using a very reasonable sounding voice to dupe us. She’ll suggest that we’re not quite ready to take on a project, book, or new job because, well, we need to prepare more. There’s always so much more that we should know before we attempt to…(you name it.)

That’s where the critic hooks me as I prepare a workshop. I think I need to read two more books, consult some alternative source material, create a super-fancy slideshow, and put off designing until I get more: 1) information, 2) experience, or 3) confidence. Entranced, I forget how much wisdom lives inside me, how well I know my subject, and the wealth of experience that I’ve had. (Tara says that men are less likely to get hooked in this way.)

Once I start believing that I should do more, I spin out in a whirl of overwhelm and worry. In my tizz, I start forgetting things, including the things I actually need to be doing.

It’s time for me to remember the mantra: “No more. No less.”

How much do I really need to do? Before I can even decide, I need to slow down and breathe. (And stop acting like a happy puppy dog running in circles trying to please!) Time to call up a cool, calm and more objective side of myself.

I grab a cup of tea and ask myself a few questions;

  • What’s going to best serve the client?  What’s the goal from their perspective?
  • What really has to be done?
  • What’s most important?
  • What else would I like to do if I had time?
  • What would be enough?
  • What would make this really fun?

Chances are I’ll work on my special slides anyway, because they are fun and they allow me to exercise a bit of creativity. But I know that I’ll be working on them for my pleasure, not because the client requires them. And I’ll probably have to keep reminding myself to make sure the basics of my project are complete before I lose myself adding some artistic flair.

How much to give?

This question gets complicated quickly. Giving can be very pleasurable and who wants to be seen as a cheapskate? But what if you’re on a restricted income and you learn that your grandson is asking for that terribly expensive and probably violent video game for his birthday? Do you get it anyway, knowing it’s way outside your budget (and preferences)? Or, do you just say, “no” and come up with a simpler and more heartfelt alternative, trusting that it will be enough. (Even if you have to wave good-bye to a bit of guilt.)

What about that mountain of requests from legitimate nonprofits that really need your help? How do you even decide how much to give? Once again, it’s time to take a big breath and consider what’s behind the impulse to give. Are you OK doing what you can, or do you believe that you have to do more in order to be seen (or see yourself) as the good, kind, generous and lovable soul you are.

When we don’t know that we’re enough and have “done enough,” it’s hard to enjoy the feeling of generosity behind what we do.

How much to do in a day?

Another complicated question. I have a big appetite for what I think I can accomplish. At the end of my day, there’s usually a mountain of stuff undone. And that leaves plenty of room for regret, even though, in truth, I did plenty.

Maybe I should add a ritual to my day (do you have one?) to step back and reflect on everything I did experience, give, or realize. Chances are I did what I could do. No more. No less.

Really understanding what is “no more/no less” requires contemplation–weaving together head with heart. Given how fast today’s world comes at us, we need an inner litmus test that allows us to feel complete and good in the face of all that we could have done or could have given.

That’s enough for today. There’s more I could write…another day. Instead I’ll stop.

 No more. No less.