OPINION: When “just enough” is just right

I recently read an article about a Swedish philosophy – Lagom – that changed my view on life. It translates as “just the right amount.” The concept is not new, but applicable to many things in our lives, especially how we look at work and making money.


Lagom means knowing when enough is enough and trying to find balance and moderation rather than constantly grasping for more. It’s that feeling of contentment we get when we have our needs met and feel comfortable. It means having shelter, food, friends and money — just enough — at your disposal.


Real-world application of Lagom

Shortly before I read this article, I had a conversation with a friend that puts this into perspective. My friend is from Germany. She grew up there and moved to the United States after college. We – myself, my friend, her husband (who is American) and my husband – were chatting about our first jobs. My husband and I shared that we worked at McDonald’s starting at 16. My friend’s husband said he had a paper route even earlier than that. We all chuckled about our introduction to the workforce until I turned to my friend and asked what her first job was.


I was stunned by her answer. She said (and I’m paraphrasing), my first job was the one I got out of college. We were encouraged to be kids instead of working. And we didn’t buy lots of things as Americans do.


While only slightly taken aback, I knew she was right. She wasn’t being rude. It was simply how other countries viewed consumerism in America.


But it’s about more than just work. It’s about the value we put on ‘things’ instead of truly living. Not only do kids/teenagers not typically get jobs in Germany, but they also don’t work during college and don’t pay tuition. In fact, legislation was introduced in 1976 that legally prohibits the charging of tuition fees at public universities.


This hit me like a ton of bricks. The concept that a society encourages its citizens to pursue education instead of working a low-end job to pay for stuff they don’t need – mind blown. It made total sense, it just wasn’t the reality for my fellow Americans and me.


And this is where Lagom applies. Keeping up with the Joneses is exhausting and, in most scenarios, not worth it. We – as a society – can learn from this philosophy. What do we have already? What does “just enough” look like for us?


In pursuit of the almighty dollar

Now, we’ve all heard people around the world say that “Americans work too much.” And I don’t disagree, even though we’re not working 12 hours a day, seven days a week anymore. But working so many hours to pay for material possessions seems a bit ridiculous. Do we really need all that stuff, like a new phone every two years or a $1,200 purse?


I can answer definitively: no. And I’m speaking from experience. In college, I worked during my summer and winter breaks at a retail clothing store to help pay for my school expenses. While part of what I made was put in the bank, I was a terrible clothes horse that spent a big chunk of my paycheck on clothes from that very store. And I didn’t have to wear their clothes.


Just like the article on Lagom says, “Anything in excess becomes miserable, even the good things in life.” When I went back to school and had too many clothes that I didn’t need and not enough money to pay for books, food, going out with friends, etc. – I hated myself for my excessive spending. So, I had to get a part-time job.


Alas, I’m human and admittedly guilty of retail therapy now and then. But, for the most part, I learned my lesson. I work to provide for my family and to enhance my kids’ lives with sports and music lessons and experiences. I am truly blessed with a great life and a job that allows me the flexibility to spend time with my family and be a great mom. And that’s more valuable to me than a high-stress high-dollar environment any day.


Lagom and the job market

So, you’re probably wondering what this has to do with you as a candidate or a hiring manager. I’m finally getting there. True to Lagom, you can choose in your search for your next job or the best candidate for your open role to be satisfied with “just enough” when it comes to salary and benefits, or experience and skills in a candidate, etc.


I’m not asking you to sacrifice your health or to get paid less than you’re worth. I’m also not saying an 80% match candidate should always get the job. But really think about this concept when you’re interviewing and negotiating for a job. Do you really need someone with 10-15 years of experience? Do you have to ask for $100 per hour to meet your financial needs? Is a candidate without a degree automatically, no?


Aren’t some things more valuable than that almighty dollar? Time with family, sense of purpose, contentment, etc. Perhaps, instead, take a note from Goldilocks where what’s just right is probably just enough.


If you’re looking to find a position or a candidate that’s just right for you, reach out to us. We’re always here to help!


About the author

Brooke Hathaway serves as Marketing Manager for Synergis and has 17+ years of experience in marketing. In this role, she is responsible for conveying the Synergis brand promise to hiring managers and candidates alike. Brooke earned a bachelor’s degree from Ohio University in journalism but considers herself a hybrid Bobcat/Buckeye fan. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling, watching her kids play sports, staying active and spending time with friends and family.

Let's get started.

"*" indicates required fields

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.