Emptifullness: The Pursuit Of The Good Enough
Emptifullness: The Pursuit Of The Good Enough
June 26, 2013
Winston Wayne Wilson
Scrabble does not recognize the word “emptifullness” – neither does the dictionary. That’s probably because it is a concocted word. A Google search will yield some artsy use of the word but no real definition is offered. To me, emptifullness is a negotiated state in which (1) a person decides to accept the “good enough” in exchange for peace of mind; and (2) the search for the answer, to whether the glass is half empty or half full, culminates with a third conclusion, namely that it is full, and the person moves on peacefully with his or her life.
At first glance, emptifullness might appear to be the same thing as gratitude. However, gratitude is a virtue. Emptifullness is a strategy – a personal strategy in which we discover the precise line, on the spectrum of the pursuit of happiness, where the returns, on the investments of our time and energies, begin to diminish and stress and other ill effects begin to soar. When we become keenly aware of this fine line, we can set our “emptifullness gauges” there and strategically decide on exactly how much of our time and energies we want to exchange for the goodies that life has to offer, without crossing our saturation line.
Some people might think that emptifullness sounds like giving up, being unambitious or endorsing failure. Not so. I believe that there are many authentic ways to live a life and each person must barter his or her precious time and resources for everything ranging from basic necessities to outrageously priced toys, like this $125 million New York City, three- bedroom apartment that I saw advertised in the newspapers last week.
In order to get anything in life, we must compete in a rat race for it. We all line up at the starting line, for the rat race marathon, the gun goes off and some of us complete five miles, some ten and some go the full distance. There are some people who walk, some trot, some run at top speeds, and some, who are elderly or disabled, require assistance. There is only one winner per race; however, all of these people run the race on their own terms, with their own understanding of what time is good enough for them. One person might take 12 hours to finish the race and jump for joy because that is good enough. Another person might finish the race in 3 hours and plunge into the bowels of depression. Each runner’s emptifullness gauge determines the precise result that he or she will be satisfied with.
This is the beauty about life – we set our emptifullness gauges and we decide the precise line, on the spectrum of the pursuit of happiness, where something becomes good enough for us. Again, this is a deeply personal gauge.
In a previous article, I mentioned that there comes a time when we should evolve from using our time to acquire money to using our money to acquire time. Why? Because we can live much longer with extra time than we can with extra money. Our emptifullness gauge are what we use to figure out when our financial glasses are full and when we can begin to leverage our time to seek fulfillment in other ways than merely acquiring more money. Others might see our financial glasses as half empty or half full or whatever. It does not matter. It is not their glasses.
We need to determine the value of our own time versus the value of incremental money, in the context of the standard of living that is acceptable to us. This is why this is an art not a science. In the pursuit of the good enough, we might need to move around a little bit. $150,000 might be peanuts in New York City; however, $30,000 might be good enough elsewhere. As such, we must decide on the steps that we need to take to lock down the good enough and achieve the peace of mind that it brings.
How do we know when the pursuit of good enough is excelling versus when it is settling? Here are two things to consider in answering that question:
What you gain should be more valuable than what you surrender
The pursuit of the good enough is not settling when the thing you gain is more valuable to you than the thing you surrender. Value is not measured in dollars alone. For example, the value a mother or father gets, in deciding to jump off the fast track for a promotion at work in order to spend time at home during the formative years of a newborn’s life, is immeasurable. The parent might forfeit the promotion plus, for example, an extra $120,000 over a five-year period, net of the cost of childcare had the parent continued to work. For that parent, this monetary compromise, for a five-year period, is where he or she achieves peace of mind and where the thing surrendered (money) is less valuable than the thing gained (priceless memories and a lifetime bond with his or her child). Others might make different choices because the above scenario does not make financial sense to them. That’s OK. Remember, emptifullness is a deeply personal gauge that no one else can set for us.
What you gain aligns or authenticates you
When what we gain represents an alignment with our core values or it authenticates who we are, then emptifullness is not settling. In this case, emptifullness evolves beyond being a periodic strategy into being an authentic lifestyle. Over the years, for example, I have seen lawyers, who graduated from Ivy League universities, whose friends looked at them like they were crazy when they decided to work for modest amounts of money in government or not-for-profits organizations, rather than work for high powered law firms where they could have more easily paid off their student loans. They made these lifestyle choices based on their emptifullness gauges and did not, at any point during their careers (even when they struggled), cave in and go corporate. The thread throughout their lives has been humanity, not money and so, even after attaining the highest levels of education in the most prestigious academic organizations, they still choose humanity over money. They travel to third world countries and offer pro bono legal services because humanity trumps money. Everything in their lives is about humanity. They are very clear about the line where the pursuit of something stops being humane and starts to become a selfish pursuit of money or fame or other accolades in life.
I have also seen people, in other professions, who request a demotion to create a better work-life, or peace of mind, balance. These people might not win the money pot but they typically do not burn themselves out as much and they might also have more peace of mind than their counterparts. In the end, only what is right for us matters.
There have been a number of books that chronicle the lives of characters who make some of these deeply personal choices regarding the good enough. For example, in the book, “The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari”, the main character is an out-of-shape, high powered lawyer, living high on the hog, who has a heart attack in court. He survives. However, to pursue a more balanced and fulfilling life, he sells his Ferrari and becomes a monk, during which time he loses weight and becomes a symbol of pristine health and wisdom.
In the book, “More Than 85 Broads”, we see a number of very talented women who decided that whatever they had already accomplished, in the fast lane at Goldman Sachs and other prestigious firms, was good enough and they made choices to pursue other avenues that were more authentic and rewarding.
In the book, “Eat, Pray, Love”, we see the main character making a similar choice to leave the rat race, and a bad marriage, behind in order to pursue real love, peace of mind and good food, while travelling across Italy, India and Indonesia.
Again, all these examples represent deeply personal choices that, when we make them and pursue them, will align us with our authentic selves. They are choices that might appear to be crazy, idiotic, and reckless but they are perfectly right for us.
My challenge for you today, is for you to locate your emptifullness gauge and to determine what is good enough for you. Decide, based on your values, how much of your time and resources you are willing to barter each day, each year, and during your lifetime. What else do you want to get out of life other than money, titles or things? Once you answer this question, then you will be better able to negotiate your time and resources so that, beyond getting money, titles and things, you get to do and experience more of what you value. Enjoy your day.