Three Minutes to Midnight

A series of columns on our role in tackling the complicated economic, environmental and social challenges we face. It will be a place to question, offer, share, explore, challenge, dissent, celebrate, reflect, learn and enjoy

This may surprise you. Research reported by Charles Eisenstein in September 2014, revealed the following: “A 2011 study of the super-wealthy at Boston College’s Center on Wealth and Philanthropy surveyed attitudes towards wealth among households with a net worth of $25 million or more (some much more – the average was US$78 million).

“Amazingly, when asked whether they experienced financial security, most of the respondents said no. How much would it take to achieve financial security? They named figures, on average, 25% higher than their current assets.” 1

Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised. Maybe this is part of the human condition. How much more money, sales growth, funding income, career progression, pension savings, recognition, free time, would you like? Maybe about 25 per cent will do for starters, thank you.

Obviously ‘more’ can be very good: people want to grow and progress; new ideas, products and services can be better placed to meet the current situations and future needs; and where there is genuine lack, ‘more’ can be essential. The desire for ‘more’ drives us forwards.

But it’s also easy to see how always wanting more is at the root of many of our current social, economic and environmental challenges. And also a sense within us of incompleteness, insufficiency and non-fulfilment. In the research above, it’s interesting to see the link between wanting more and the desire to feel secure.

In his excellent book on growing older, Travels with Epicurus, Daniel Klein quotes the Greek philosopher: “Nothing is enough for the man to whom enough is too little.”2

If we do not know when ‘enough’ is, it doesn’t matter how much we have; there will be an itch that will not go away.

This sense of ‘never enough’ pervades our culture. It always has. Advertising relies on it. Magazines are full of it. We’re culturally soaked in it. Dare we say it, our own profession often extols: ‘You can be more, have more, faster, if you get a coach.’

Perhaps we have a responsibility – let’s call it ‘pre-flight checks’. In Neil’s NLP training there was an exercise in ‘Chunking Up’; if a client wanted, for example, more ‘money’, the coach’s responses was along the lines of: “And what would that ‘money’ mean/bring/enable for you?” What happened next was interesting. “Buy a house’, ‘Leave the job’, ‘Start a business’, ‘Go travelling’, were the sort of comments that would come up.

“And what would that do for you?” was repeated. After some 3-5 iterations there would be a sense of having ‘landed’ somewhere. ‘Freedom’, ‘I’ll feel safe’, ‘I can be myself’, or something similar. It was deep. Profound.

Sometimes the method was a great validation for what they set out for. But interestingly, once realising what this was really about, the client often quickly saw other, easier, paths to that deeper place. Often it didn’t involve much ‘more’ at all. In fact, it sometimes involved ‘less’.

If we truly care about health and happiness, for our clients, their organisations, ourselves and, indeed, the wider world and future generations, then an understanding of what a desire for ‘more’ is really all about, and when is enough, will go a long way. And as a profession we are very well placed to help people and organisations find those answers.


1 Charles Eisenstein was writing in Resurgence and Ecologist, 286, p35, Sept/Oct 2014

2 Travels with Epicurus, Daniel Klein, p16, Oneworld Publications, 2013


Dr Alister Scott and Neil Scotton of The One Leadership Project are helping those leading their organisations to ‘Think Beyond’ and ‘Act as One’.
Alister Scott:

Neil Scotton: