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Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Finding the sweet spot

There's a feeling of enough that comes from living a simple life. Not having too little, not needing too much. But how much is enough? And how we know it when we've found it?

First, let's look at the extremes. We've all experienced the feeling of too little, or not enough. When we're hungry and there's no food in the fridge, when don't have the right tool for the job, when we don't have enough money to pay rent. Not enough is all too common. But too much? That's more difficult to define. But again, I'm sure we've experienced it as well. Over-eating in an all-you-can-eat restaurant, packing too many clothes for your holiday, taking on too many commitments. Periods of overwhelm or stress.

Now we know the extremes, we can find the sweet spot between them.

Take a look at my highly unscientific diagram:

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Between less and more there is a sweet spot that correlates to a greater life satisfaction. We might feel that earning more money would increase our life satisfaction, and it does, but only until a certain threshold (~$75,000 p/a). After which there are diminishing returns.

You could think of the sweet spot as being between the barriers you find in bowling lanes. Your life will zig-zag from one to the other as your circumstances change, but as long as you are mindful you won't stray too far to either side you'll retain a more constant life satisfaction. For example, as soon as you start to feel the pinch financially or feel overwhelmed from taking on too much, you can course correct. You'll never be directly down the centre of the lane but if we extend the bowling analogy, you don't need to get the ball down the centre to score a strike.

It's obviously easier to identify when we have too little but not when we have too much. Why is that? The compulsion to  want more is result of the culture of scarcity we live in. We somehow feel we're lacking, we compare, we aspire, we are told we need this and that. The more precisely you know what you need and value, the less you feel driven to want more. Otherwise the default answer easily becomes: more.

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