Time Affluence, Enoughness and Self Care: Becoming Our Best Selves
A few years ago, I was sifting through my mail and came across an article from my financial advisor. If you’re anything like me, this is something you might only glance at for a moment before tossing in the recycling. After all, I admittedly don’t read everything my financial advisor sends. However, this time was different. The article was introducing the concept of time affluence. This struck me. Never before had I associated the words time and affluence with each other. What was this really about?
Tim Kasser, a researcher known for his work in understanding materialism and well-being, coined the term which has to do with our perceived sense of time and the feeling that we have control over how we spend it (Hoffman, 2017). He attributes time affluence to be one of the key factors in experiencing happiness and satisfaction in life. Being able to choose how to spend our time is empowering. Four empirical studies reveal that having a feeling of time affluence can relieve stress, increase job and family satisfaction, improve physical health, and result in greater community and civic involvement, all at rates that are significantly higher than just increasing material wealth (Institute for The Future, 2011).
The truth is, we cannot spend our time in the way we want to unless we have an internal belief that we are enough. According to Brene Brown, “…in this perfectionistic culture, most of us believe we’re “not good enough…not thin enough, rich enough, beautiful enough, smart enough, promoted enough..” And so we continue to strive and stretch ourselves, and all the while, we feel we don’t have enough time to manage it all. However, Brown says we are also “the most in-debt, obese, addicted, and medicated adult cohort in US history.” Clearly, our more-is-better cultural attitude and endless pressure to succeed is not contributing to a sense of confidence and security in ourselves. We spend a lot of our time and energy trying to fit the mold rather than reflecting on what is most important to us individually. It’s not good enough to keep up with the Joneses. We want to surpass them.
If you don’t read any further, here’s our stance on this topic: Regardless of financial wealth, we all have the ability to reshape the way we spend our time. Even small changes can significantly improve our well-being. Our self-concept and behaviors are largely driven by narratives about success, responsibility, and “enoughness”. It takes intentionality and courage to look critically at these narratives and write a different story — a story that is based on the belief that we are enough. We can cultivate this belief through specific practices, which, when done regularly, support us to live and work in a way that truly nourishes us, while also allowing us to live and contribute more authentically.
Follow the Leader: A Developmental Perspective
Early in life, it’s easy to confuse our parents’ and teachers’ efforts to help us learn and grow with the message that we are not enough. We are primed, from the time we are infants, to study and mimic our caregivers. This is where we learn how to be in the world, how to move and speak, and what values to internalize. Infancy and childhood are periods of explosive growth and change. Even with the best of intentions, parents can be both supportive and limiting.
School, while intended to be wholly supportive, can also limit a child’s ability to develop an empowered self-concept. While we are not disparaging the importance of teaching academics, it reinforces social comparison, which is a fundamental element of western culture and gets in the way of developing individual core values. Striving to imitate someone else’s value system can be wholly unsatisfying.
Grades are only one example of this. In his book, Excellent Sheep, a commentary about the college system in the U.S, author William Deresiewicz describes being a student. He said, “I’d study for days trying to get good grades. When I’d get an ‘A,’ I’d feel elation for about 30 seconds, and then a feeling of emptiness. Rinse and repeat.” We learn quickly that our worthiness comes from external rather than internal validation.
These ideas follow us into adulthood. However, by mid-life, we tend to question our earlier notions and turn inward. This time in our lives is often when we do more existential thinking. It’s when people tend to report more purpose and freedom from expectation and others’ notions of success. But why do we have to wait so long? If we can teach our children to calibrate what they learn from parents, teachers, and mentors with what they know about themselves, we might save them time and emotional distress trying to meet impossible external standards.
Missing the Target: Enoughness at Work
A good friend of mine began working at a large bank just after graduating from college. It was exactly what you picture when thinking of the quintessential corporate America job — he wore a suit and tie and shared a cubicle with another colleague. The office had a “work hard, play hard” aesthetic, equipped with a shuffleboard table, dartboard, and a fridge stocked with drinks for the employees.
My friend recalls a time when he decided to play a round of darts in between meetings. He had been at the company for 6 months and had never seen anyone partake in the game. He started playing, but as soon as the first dart hit the board, a colleague came up to him looking puzzled and demanded an explanation for his seemingly inappropriate behavior. My friend had clearly made a new employee faux pas. While the dartboard appeared to be an opportunity for leisure, he quickly realized that it was more of a symbol for fun and play rather than an authentic invitation.
So, why have the games in the office at all if they aren’t meant to be used? Clearly, they are there because we recognize intellectually that taking breaks and recreation are good for productivity. In fact, Silicon Valley tech offices are known for being like adult playgrounds, with glitzy perks like beers on tap, pool tables, and photo booths. Yet, there is a disconnect in our culture between recognizing the importance of play and truly inviting it.
This story seems to demonstrate our culture’s ethos around work. We are obsessed with it. Taking a moment to relax and recharge is often interpreted as a lack of dedication or ambition. And thus, we learn that our time is not in fact ours. Much like we did with parents and teachers, we are always trying to impress our superiors. This sets up a dynamic of always trying to be and do enough for a good performance review. Even better — outperform. Get promoted. It’s all about external validation…
Now let us be clear, by no means are we suggesting that working hard isn’t important. In fact, we don’t believe there is a conflict between an inner stance of enoughness and hard work. And it’s important that we don’t conflate true fulfillment with lacking humility or shirking our responsibilities. But perhaps adopting a stance of enoughness allows us to approach our work differently. When we know we are enough as we are, our drive and attitude toward our time come from a more authentic place, rather than to satisfy others’ expectations. Our work becomes motivated by our values, passions, and interests, rather than an attempt to prove ourselves.
Making Every Voice Matter: Belonging & Enoughness
Who belongs? And who gets to decide? If we don’t believe our voice matters, we have an even greater hurdle to clear when it comes to believing that we are enough.
Many female-identified professionals and people of color are especially impacted by feeling like they do not belong at work. According to Ruchika Tulshyan author of Inclusion on Purpose: An Intersectional Approach to Creating a Culture of Belonging at Work and Jodi-Ann Burey, speaker and writer on intersectionality, many highly qualified professionals experience the imposter phenomenon as well as biases and microaggressions at work. Rulshyan and Burey explain, “The same systems that reward confidence in male leaders, even if they’re incompetent, punish white women for lacking confidence, women of color for showing too much of it, and all women for demonstrating it in a way that’s deemed unacceptable.” It is imperative to create a culture where all employees can “channel healthy self-doubt into positive motivation” and this happens in inclusive and supportive workplaces that allow all people to belong and thrive (. When we belong, we are enough.
Attitude of Abundance: Learning from Other Cultures
When we believe we are and have enough, we can access an attitude of abundance. This is not related to material wealth. It is derived from our ability to develop our own internal standards for fulfillment.
We can look to many other cultures for examples of this. Christina Goettsch Mittermeier is a conservationist, biologist, activist, author, and photographer for National Geographic Magazine. She has traveled around the world for much of her career photographing indigenous people in remote locations. One of the big themes that emerged on her many treks through the Amazon, Papua New Guinea, and Madagascar was the idea of enoughness and contentment. What makes us truly satisfied?
Mittermeier would speak with local people, many of whom lived off the land and owned only the clothing they were wearing. In one of her many interviews, she spoke with a Hawaiian man who grew up in a remote “shack” on the beach without financial means. But he described having a rich sense of tradition, purpose and connection to this “ohana,” or family. He always felt he had enough. It wasn’t until someone from the mainland visited and told him he was poor that he ever considered this notion (Mittermeier, 2014, 1:51). Once he began comparing himself to them, he suddenly felt a sense of scarcity that he had not experienced before. Mittermeier believes that the key to contentment is defining enoughness by our own “internal yardstick.” The most significant obstacle to this is social comparison, which continues to intensify with social media and technology.
Staying Above Water: The Role of Self Care
Self-care is critical to developing a sense of abundance, enoughness, and time affluence. It allows us to be more effective with our time, and stay better connected to ourselves and our loved ones. What do we mean when we say self-care? We mean activities that promote physical and emotional well-being, as well as human connection. When we make self-care a priority, we organize our time differently. Creative ideas that we may not have been able to see before can emerge. Our lives become more spacious.
Take Jack Dorsey, for example. He is an entrepreneur, programmer, and founder and former CEO of Twitter. He is also the CEO of Block, a philanthropist, and an advisor on other projects and companies in the space. Despite his many professional demands, Dorsey is famously known for his strict “wellness schedule” where he makes time to walk five miles to work and meditates for two hours daily. He credits this practice as his ability to “stay above water” (Hartmans, 2020). Take that in for a moment. One of the most prominent founders in the world of technology finds several hours each day to take care of himself and reset. It requires courage to take this unconventional path.
Now we recognize that not everyone has this much time for self-care. You might be wondering how to squeeze in any additional time for yourself in the midst of a full life. But we believe that self-care is accessible to everyone, regardless of our financial wealth or leadership status. Even if we only dedicate a few minutes every day to it. The key is consistency. A few minutes every day can make a big difference.
In her book, The Trance of Scarcity, author Victoria Castle explains, “…our experience of abundance, of living in the world with effectiveness and ease is determined by our inner stance more than by our outer circumstances.” Our focus then becomes cultivating simple, realistic practices that help us develop enoughness, rather than trying to get our circumstances to align neatly (Castle, 2006, p 71).
What are some ways to cultivate an inner stance of enoughness and time affluence? Try these:
- Start Your Day with Something for Yourself
There are so many ways to prioritize ourselves. Journaling, working out, meditating, enjoying a cup of coffee or just taking five slow, deep breaths are all great choices. Making the time to do something for ourselves allows us to clear our minds and reminds us that we are a priority. That we have the time to do what it takes to live good lives. And no, this doesn’t mean checking our email or watching TV, because this shifts our focus away from ourselves. Self-care involves directing our attention to a physical or mind oriented activity without distractions.
2. Get Good Sleep
Sleep restores us. When we sleep well, we are generally healthier and make more thoughtful decisions about how to spend our time. Sleep also shifts our self concept. In fact, shorter sleep duration (under 6 hours) is related to a reduced sense of optimism and self esteem (Räikkönen et al, 2013). Perhaps sleep is actually essential for cultivating enoughness.
3. Spend Time Helping Others
This might sound paradoxical, but spending our time in a way that benefits others can actually make time seem more abundant. As Cassie Mogilner of the Wharton School of Business found when studying time affluence, “such altruistic behavior boosts our self-esteem and self-confidence — and this, in turn, stretches out time in our minds.” Activities like volunteer work or helping a friend or family member can contribute to an inner perception of enoughness and overall well-being.
4. Cultivate Gratitude
Gratitude can help us experience a sense of spaciousness in our lives, which contributes to time affluence. When we appreciate our circumstances or the people in our lives, we practice being intentional with our time. Writing a thank you note or journaling about what we are grateful for can help shift the focus away from beliefs associated with external accomplishments and remind us of what we value most.
5. Practice Mindfulness
The benefit of mindfulness is that it teaches us that we can direct our attention and filter out distractions in any given moment. And when we do get distracted, we also learn about self-compassion as we gently bring ourselves back to the task at hand. Contrary to the idea that mindfulness means retreating from a busy life, in fact, it is actually an accessible tool that anyone can use. It’s really just about slowing down, tuning inward, and observing our experience. This can come in the form of focusing on our breath, meditating, moving our bodies, or eating with intentional awareness. Whatever method you choose, the key is consistency.
6. Nurture Creativity
Research shows that creative expression correlates with a deeper sense of well-being and connection to others. Making a watercolor, writing a poem, arranging flowers, or trying a new recipe, for example, can be enjoyable in their own right. But they also spark creative thinking in many other areas of our lives. These activities remind us that we are much more than our responsibilities and accomplishments. Who are you? How do you spend your time outside of work? What are your passions, hobbies, and interests?
The Bottom Line
Developing an inner stance of enoughness and a sense of time affluence is a challenge for all of us. It is an ongoing process and takes continual practice. When we learn to truly care for ourselves, pay attention to our own values and standards, and rely less on social comparison, we are more fulfilled in our lives and can spend our time more intentionally.
You are enough.
- Deresiewicz, W. (2014). Excellent sheep: The miseducation of the American elite and the way to a meaningful life.
- Hartmans, A. (2020, August 15). Jack Dorsey says he adopted his strict routine of diet, exercise, and meditation after becoming CEO of Twitter ‘just to stay above water’. Business Insider. Retrieved July 29, 2022, from https://www.businessinsider.in/tech/news/jack-dorsey-says-he-adopted-his-strict-routine-of-diet-exercise-and-meditation-after-becoming-ceo-of-twitter-just-to-stay-above-water/articleshow/77563827.cms
- Hoffman, D. E. (2017). Time affluence: A key to wellbeing. White Swan Foundation. Retrieved June 29, 2022, from https://www.whiteswanfoundation.org/mental-health-matters/wellbeing/time-affluence-a-key-to-wellbeing#:~:text=More%20recently%2C%20the%20American%20psychologists,regularly%20has%20ample%20time%20available
- Institute for the Future. (2011). A New Affluence . Retrieved 2022.
- Lemola S, Räikkönen K, Gomez V, Allemand M. Optimism and self-esteem are related to sleep. Results from a large community-based sample. Int J Behavioral Med. 2013 Dec;20(4):567–71. doi: 10.1007/s12529–012–9272-z. PMID: 23055029.
- Mittermeier, C. 2014, January 5. Enoughness: Cristina MIttermeier at TEDxVailWomen. TEDXTalks.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xw8U5LXaItM&ab_channel=TEDxTalks
- Stop telling women they have imposter syndrome. Harvard Business Review. (2022, April 12). Retrieved July 29, 2022, from https://hbr.org/2021/02/stop-telling-women-they-have-imposter-syndrome
- Tan CY, Chuah CQ, Lee ST, Tan CS. Being Creative Makes You Happier: The Positive Effect of Creativity on Subjective Well-Being. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021 Jul 6;18(14):7244. doi: 10.3390/ijerph18147244. PMID: 34299693; PMCID: PMC8305859.
- The Brené Brown approach to being enough. Psychotherapy Networker. (n.d.). Retrieved July 29, 2022, from https://www.psychotherapynetworker.org/blog/details/1004/the-bren%C3%A9-brown-approach-to-being-enough
- The Trance of Scarcity. (2006, May 1). The Free Library. (2006). Retrieved July 29, 2022 from https://www.thefreelibrary.com/The Trance of Scarcity.-a0146073555