E33: Enough?

Entering my 6th week of blogging about my sustainability challenge, I’ll take some time to contemplate the question of what is enough. Last year I gathered half a dozen inspiring posts. They'd lit a fire in my gut and I've kept them for further contemplation. I’ll lay them all out to see different criteria for the question, what is enough?

Any and all of these links are well worth the leap. I merely touch on some high points for my inspiration today.

I ‘ll start with my delight in finding an excerpt from an article recommended in a recent StepWise post, with Susan giving family history of defining food and how much is enough. Check it out. Coincidently, I am citing a chunk that I read for the second time in 6 months. It was written by Vicki Robin of Your Money or Your Life fame eighteen years ago. This piece subtitled, "Enoughness" doesn't mean voluntary poverty - it means discovering who you really are, shows that decisions that guide a conscious life don’t change much.
I pledge to discover how much is enough for me
  • to be truly fulfilled, and to consume only that.
I also pledge to be part of the discovery
  • of how much would be enough for everyone
  • not only to survive but to thrive, and
  • to find ways for them to have access to that.
Through this commitment to restraint
  • and justice, I am healing my life
  • and am part of the healing of the world.

No Impact Man wrote about changing the message in the following September post.
Are we too selfish to change?

A hundred years ago, waste was considered immoral. Throwing out something that still worked was just plain wrong.
What changed that? Marketing. Factory owners wanted to keep their production lines churning and factory workers wanted to keep their tummies full. Repetitive consumption seemed like the answer.

Slowly but surely we convinced ourselves that new was better than old. It became ok to throw things out. It became ok to waste. In fact, out with the old and in with the new kept the economic wheels turning. Buying became downright patriotic. Snip

Because history shows us that acquisitiveness, a twentieth century phenomenon, is not based on selfishness (which presumably would have been present from the Stone Age). Instead, our consumption arose because of newly-learned social norms and values.

So, we can change the message.

For many years, in this country, smoking was trendy. Now it’s not. The message changed. When I was young, people threw their wrappers on the New York streets without a thought. Now people sneer if you drop your trash. The message changed.

Why wouldn’t the same be true of our use of planetary resources? For many years, as a culture, we thought it was great to get more and use more, and that was the message.

People argue that changing course is impossible. You can’t, they say, change human nature. But we don’t have to change human nature.

All we have to do is change the message.

Greenpa presents a practical idea on Limits – last July titled, The Power of Limits.

We have to find ways to make the limits tangible; and ways to encourage people to see them; live with them. I think my proposal on energy pricing; where The more you use, the more you pay is a step in that direction. The reason for moving to that kind of pricing is comprehensible; the visible "limit" would be the "annual allowance" of very inexpensive energy. Beyond that; society says you must pay steeper and steeper prices- because- it's a limited resource, and we all know it. It's visible; palpable- accepted.

The problem we must tackle: All our supply systems are designed to work "on demand". Turn it on- the whole world supply of electricity/water/gas/waste handling/whatever is plugged in and at your command, your majesty.

It's a design guaranteed to CAUSE waste. It cannot fail.

We need to fix this in our own homes, first of all. I've found ways- mostly by just being unplugged from the big delivery systems. There have to be more ways- easier to put in place, more adaptable to cities- etc. We- you and I- need to find them.

Lastly, I want to share another blogger’s thesis on limits. This one appeals to me as it was a concept I promoted in my career. As part of a drawing standards approach for construction drawings, I stressed our saying as much as we could in as few drawings, notes and specifications as possible. I came up with the analogy of haiku to explain this approach. Sadly, my experience showed me that these co-workers were so graphic in method of processing, in thought , the literary abstract couldn’t be digested. Oh well, I still like the concept and this blogger from Zen Habits describes it beautifully.

Haiku Productivity: The Fine Art of Limiting Yourself to the Essential
I’ve been wanting to write this post for a little while now, about an experiment I’ve been doing. For a few months, I’ve been purposely binding myself.
Not as a way to hamstring myself, but as a way to make me focus on fewer, but more important things. As a way to allow myself to do more in less time.

I’m sure you’ve heard of the Pareto principle, known also as the 80/20 rule. While I don’t think that the percentages of that rule are exact, the principle is true: you should focus on the few things that get you the most benefit.

But while that’s nice in principle, in practice it’s hardly ever done. Why? Because we have too much thrown at us at once, and we’re too busy juggling everything coming at us to take a minute and evaluate what’s essential, what gets the most benefit for the least amount of effort, and what we should really focus on.

There’s no systematic way to focus on the essential stuff, and eliminate the rest.
Until now. I’ve developed a system I call Haiku Productivity, based on some good ideas by others (and I won’t be able to name them all, but know that I am indebted). The key to Haiku Productivity is to limit yourself to an arbitrary but small number of things, forcing yourself to focus on the important stuff and eliminate all else.

Haiku: Limited but powerful
To understand this simple concept, think about the form of the haiku (the common version, at least): it’s poetry in 17 syllables, with 3 lines of 5, 7, and 5 syllables (I know there are variations and this is only a rough definition, but that’s not important to this article). The point is that the form of the haiku is extremely limited, to a small number of lines and syllables.

What this does is forces the poet to focus on only those words that mean the most to the poem. While other forms of poetry can go on for pages, haiku are short and compact. As a result, haiku can be some of the most powerful poems in any language.
With such a limited form, you cannot just use any amount of words you want to express a concept. You have to focus on one small but essential concept, and as a result you accomplish a lot with a few syllables. That’s what Haiku Productivity is.

Limited but Productive
So how does this apply to productivity? Well, if you think this will allow you to accomplish twice as many tasks, you’re wrong. You’ll accomplish fewer tasks. But you will most likely be more effective, because you will have to choose only the essential tasks — the ones that will give you the most benefit for your limited time.
What are the other benefits of Haiku Productivity, besides increased effectiveness?

Besides forcing you to focus on essential tasks that have a large Return on Investment (ROI), it forces you to eliminate the non-essential tasks. No other system forces you to do that. It forces you to make the best use of your time. It forces you to limit the time you spend on things, which means you have more time for other things that are important to you, and you are able to focus on what you want to focus on, instead of everything coming at you.

It simplifies your life and makes you less stressed out.
Haiku Productivity: Place Limits on Everything details not shown here
More on this from zen habits.

I have included more from Zen Habits as Leo Babauta welcomes bloggers 'sharing.'

These have all informed my thinking, my experience in environomental awareness. Although I was predisposed in my life of downsizing, frugality, non-consumerism, eating whole food, designing with 'found objects' and a distaste for driving - my motivations were primarily economic. These internet connections have helped me focus on the issues of Peak Oil, Climate Change and Sustainability. I feel I have been personally directed by these bloggers and others. And, I've felt more at home in my own skin in these last six weeks than I did all year last year.

Your Money or Your Life, Why