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Escaping the “Not Enough” Trap

Updated: Mar 3, 2021

June 21, 2020|happiness, mindfulness

The key lies within.

As a passionate conservationist, I’ve spent much of my life as a scientist studying and working on environmental issues. Based at a leading non-profit conservation organization for twenty years, I wrestled daily with solutions to lessening humanity’s footprint on the planet, harming fewer animals, paving less ground, cleaning the water and air, and so on.

My heart ached on a nearly constant basis with awareness of the growing environmental destruction and its impact to life on earth. Through global connectivity, our access to images and stories of the endless pain and abuse of people and animals can send any reasonable person into great despair — with an urgent desire to answer the endless beckoning call for help. Life in Groundhog Day The salve to this heart wound was to dedicate my waking life towards solving these issues. I worked tirelessly day in and out and took comfort in knowing that I was doing “my part.” But at some point, my life became an endless Groundhog Day of waking and sleeping trying to fill a hole that actually had no bottom (For those perhaps too young to remember, Groundhog Day is a classic cult movie with Bill Murray where Bill is caught living the same day over and over again on an endless loop — watch the film if you haven’t seen it!).

My anger accumulated at all the injustices I saw, and sadness and resolution settled within my being so that looking at the world through my eyes felt like peering out through a very dirty windshield.

I now believe that living life in this way is a trap. It is the trap of “never enough.” There will never be enough time, energy, and money to fill this hole of planetary suffering. Confounded by this conundrum, a key question formed in my consciousness: As a kind and conscientious human, is it okay to be truly blissfully happy when the world feels like it is falling apart around me?

Is there another path? Is it possible to live life filled with ever present peace, joy and gratitude while at the same time acting decisively with a calm, clear mind for the benefit of humanity and the planet? The Key Lies Within Here is what I now believe. In order to shift the external reality that we find upsetting, we must begin to change humanity individually from within. An idea perfectly captured in this beautiful quote from the first sentence of UNESCO’s constitution: ‘Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed’. Recall the famous quote by Mahatma Gandhi “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Notice how it doesn’t say “DO the change…” it says “BE the change.” That’s because in order to change our external reality — the planet that we desperately wish was healthier and the human injustice and suffering that we desperately want to end — WE have to become that which we seek. WE have to become kindness, compassion, love, gratitude. WE have to shift from a doing-centered being to a being-centered being.

Imagine for a moment that this blog post went viral and everyone reading it — hundreds of millions maybe billions of people — became kindness, became compassion, became love. Do you see how this becoming would be the change that we seek? But how do we truly shift into a being-centered being? The Critical Leap In my experience, this takes attention and practice, but we start by accepting the present moment fully as it is and surrender to the fundamental understanding that everything will be okay. I know that can seem impossible to believe, but as you are reading this stop. Pause and then repeat out loud to yourself slowly three times: “everything will be okay.” Really do this…How do you feel? Do you feel the natural calmness and aliveness present in this moment and already here without us needing to fix or do anything?

How do we get to a place of accepting the present moment fully as it is and truly believing that everything will be okay?

Here is the critical leap — first surrender and accept that you are enough. One of my teachers says that each of us — every single one with no exceptions — is “creative, resourceful and whole.” We don’t actually need anything external to be different for us to be whole inside. Each of us is exactly enough.

We then flip the perspective and act from acceptance, wholeness and completeness within — “enoughness” internally — and not as a fix to a broken world. When we act from “enoughness,” we access an inner reservoir of unlimited energy — we are no longer drained by the external world, instead we are empowered and energized to act. Living Free Acting from this place, we have boundless love, joy and energy to pour into whatever moves us. It is living in a totally different way. It is living from open-hearted, compassionate awareness.

Finally free from the trap of “not enough,” we build unshakable resilience within. We can take action and live fully and joyfully in the world no matter the external circumstances — even amidst tremendous pain and suffering. Imagine the collective planetary change that would occur if everyone lived these truths: I am enough and everything will be okay. It starts with each individual. No one can do this for you. YOU can simply decide to act with kindness, compassion, and love. Right now and in every moment.

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