Am I Doing Enough?
In a world of motivational tweets and TED Talks and entrepreneurs talking about their hustle, it’s easy to begin repeating a phrase deadly to your creativity: “Am I doing enough?”
This is a loaded question. It’s not a simple “yes”, because you may not be. But it’s also not a “no”, because you could definitely be doing enough. (Or too much. Yes, that is such a thing, and we’ll touch on that later.) When we wonder if we’re doing enough, we’re questioning our abilities in order to meet external demands from culture, other people, or self-imposed expectations.
The Comparison of “Enough”
These external demands can motivate us, or they can make us feel inferior. When they motivate us, amazing things happen. We can start a new project, finish others, and create a powerful community dedicated to helping each other reach our goals.
But when we begin comparing ourselves to others, especially those we don’t know on the Internet, we can begin a spiral that will take us through comparison, doubt, and fear. These feelings of inferiority are pervasive. They make us question tasks we’re skilled at and believe that the world doesn’t need our voice. (It most definitely does.)
“Enough” is also relative. Everyone has a different level where they reach “enough”. What could be abundant work for you may be too much for me, or vice versa. This is why the comparison trap is so dangerous.
It’s great to be motivated by others and that’s not inherently a negative thing, but we need to remember that everyone has different limits, needs, and desires. Someone who is launching a startup with plans to exit in two years will have a different “enough” limit than someone who is aiming for a promotion at their company.
So. If the limit is different for everyone, then how are we supposed to find ours? Great question. This is especially important for Type A’s like myself who never feel like we’re doing enough or like what we’re creating is never good enough.
Your Personal “Enough”
Finding your limit requires looking inwards and ignoring the world’s standards of hard work and success. First, are you doing the best you can with the resources and experience you have? This is key. You can’t be an expert without going through the growing period, so placing unrealistic expectations on yourself isn’t the way to accomplish it. If you’re just starting a new skill, your version of doing enough will look different from someone who has been working at it for a few years.
It all comes down to this: are you putting forth your best effort every day at all tasks? If you answer yes, then you’re doing what is enough to you at this moment. Remember, though, when you improve, your standard of enough changes.
Second, where are you finding your definition of success and doing enough? If you’re looking to achieve a specific level of success, whether that’s achieving full-time income from your side hustle or scaling a company, then that’s your definition of success.
So often people feel like they’re failing because of mismatched goals. This is one of the hardest things to see, because even those it’s something that can be fixed, many don’t realize it’s happening. The comparison trap makes us feel like we should only want one type of goal, and that we’re not doing enough if we aren’t going for that specific goal.
Instead, we need to encourage each other to reach goals that are relevant to our desires and experience. The beautiful thing about creativity is that we can all spur each other on to reach our individual goals without fear of competition. Even two people creating the same type of content will create something drastically different because of their unique viewpoints.
Your goals will very likely look different from your coworkers and friends, and that’s a beautiful thing. It’s not something to be ashamed of. Own your dreams and work towards reaching them.
The Fake Enough and the Real Enough
In order to truly answer this question of whether we’re doing enough, we need to take an honest look at how we’re doing. It seems simple enough, right? Well, not quite. We like to lie to ourselves over hard things, and this is one of those moments.
Take time to sit in this thought and review your work, both for work and anything on the side, and rate yourself on how much you put into it. If there were projects where you put everything you had into it and grew from it, then you were definitely doing enough.
But if you phoned it in and ignored a few points because you were tight on time or because you didn’t think people would notice, it’s time to realign your work.
Your beliefs and creativity are far too important to half-ass your way through a project. I know it’s tempting and at times I’ve done it, too. But the rewards of pushing yourself to your version of enough are far greater than the momentary satisfaction of finishing a project.
Doing Too Much
Here’s the flipside of the core “am I doing enough” question. Are you doing too much? Yes, it’s possible to do too much, and it’s not something to brag about. Pushing yourself too far will ultimately take a toll on your physical and emotional health, not to mention personal and professional relationships.
I’ve definitely gotten caught up in the rat race of doing enough, and I can tell you first hand that it doesn’t work. When you’re in the comparison vacuum, you’ll never go far enough or do well enough to satisfy your need to achieve.
Following this will lead to burnout. It could be next week or next year, but doing too much will have negative ramifications. Burnout isn’t a sexy word startup culture has glamorized, it’s the result of not listening to your body and doing far more than enough for too long. I’m not saying don’t work hard. Instead, work hard while listening to your body and your trusted community.
Fixing the Problem of “Enough”
When you reach the point of wondering if you’re doing enough, this is how you get back to what you love, without the external pressures we’re so good at imposing on ourselves.
Know When It’s Time for a Restart
Our viewpoints are so incredibly valuable because of the insight and diversity within, and we need to share them. I won’t lie and say it’s easy to ignore the trolls and their ridiculous comments, especially as you try to bring something alive that contradicts the chosen narrative. But it’s important.
Without sharing our work, the world will become an echo chamber for those shouting loud enough. When the voices of people who don’t matter become too much, it’s time to tune it all out.
There’s a caveat, though. When it becomes too much and you start to ignore your instincts and instead focus on what others say is right and “enough”, it’s time for a restart. Get away from social media, practice ignoring those who aren’t ready to hear your message, and protect your work.
In order to continue sharing something that may go against the status quo, use this time off social media to realign what you’re doing and what your current level of “enough” is. This evolves over time, and it’s essential to not let a stranger on the internet (or even someone in your circle who doesn’t know all the relevant details) determine it for you.
If you can push harder, do it. If you need to pull back to become a better version of yourself, do it. It’s much healthier long-term to take the time to rest and reset now than once it’s gone too far and you need a longer and more intense reset.
When this restart happens (and once you get back on), make this your mantra: “Strangers’ opinions don’t matter.”
What does matter: your honesty and transparency in creating the work you believe in. In creating your life into a work of art that will help others achieve something great. (Whatever that means to them.)
Protect Your Work
One of my favorite TV shows in college was Smash, a musical about creating a musical. In Season 2, Jennifer Hudson’s character tells the lead to “protect the work”. In this case, it meant protecting the musical from an actor for some semi-selfish reasons, but the point remains. We need to protect our work in order to thrive. In order to share the result with the world.
Restarting is for more than you, it’s to help protect your work. It’s realizing that in order to bring something truly powerful into the world, you need to hide it away for the time being.
As one of the many caveats I share, this can go too far. If we’re protecting the work while we search for perfection, this isn’t showing up as our true selves and sharing our beliefs and gifts within our online community.
It’s scary to hit publish one something. Most episodes and Instagram posts I’m hesitating before pushing it live because of the vulnerability needed to create.
But the more we wait for perfect, the longer we hide our true selves and deny the deep relationships that come from sharing the creative, messy, and amazing art we create
Protect the work, but know that you can’t protect it forever.
Know the Power
Your story is something incredible, and it can inspire others to reach their enough and break through their predisposed limits to something better. But we need to realize the full power of your story and your actions. Don’t guilt people into pushing themselves harder than they should be, or for going further than you’re currently able to.
The amazing thing about social media is that anyone can have an impact and it’s no longer limited to our immediate group of friends and family. The powerful part of this is that we need to remember how our words can impact others without fully realizing it.
What we say has power, and it’s our responsibility to use that to help, not hinder, others. This doesn’t mean we can never tell the truth or that we need to shy away from tough conversations, but it does mean we need to do it in love and without judging.
It’s time to stop wondering if we’re doing enough based on what that one person on Instagram is doing. It’s time to look within for the power to do enough for us, and to support our community in doing the same. It’s already in us, we just need to use it.