“Too Much of Not Enough”

July 2009

Recently, I’ve begun to notice evidence in my client’s lives (and my own) of what I call “too much of not enough.” As we add more work to our days, and move at ever-increasing speeds to get things done, it is easy to feel overwhelmed and unfulfilled. We stretch ourselves thin in terms of commitments we make to our organizations, family and friends (often forgetting about our own wants). Gradually, we realize that the things we are spending time on are not satisfying our real needs. On the surface, we have plenty of relationships, projects, teams, activities. But do those really satisfy us?

Too much of not enough can take the form of a relationship that you spend a lot of time in, yet don’t feel is a reciprocal one. It can be maddening to devote most of your waking hours to a boss who doesn’t understand your strengths, let alone your interests. Or, to wake up one day and realize that the friendship you have invested years in, suddenly feels too small. If a team we have devoted months to develop suddenly turns out not to be functional, that can be a very frustrating experience. How about too much email, but not enough real communication with others? Even tasks can come under the “too much of not enough” category, when we spend a lot of effort without much in the way of results (or appreciation). You get the idea.

Some signs that you might be experiencing this syndrome are:

  • not feeling like you have accomplished much, if anything, at the end of a day
  • a vague sense of disconnect when interacting with a co-worker
  • realizing you are doing most of the heavy lifting on a team
  • boredom or restlessness in a relationship
  • resenting time spent on a project that doesn’t use your talents

You can begin to assess what might be going on by stepping back and noticing where you spend a lot of time, energy, or effort. Are the payoffs commensurate with the investment you are making? Does the relationship or task bring you energy, or deplete you? What do you feel when you see that person or project on your calendar? Another tip is to define for yourself what is “enough.” What is enough time spent with a project? What is enough emotional capital to invest in a relationship? You will often discover that the places where you do reflect and honor your values and needs are those situations and relationships that feel “just right.”

If I can support you in discerning where you might have “too much of not enough,” and ways to move towards “just right,” please ask. Meanwhile, have a wonderful 4th of July holiday, with just enough fun, family, friends, and fireworks.

Sharon Keys Seal

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