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Enough Is Enough

by Helen Bryant

Suitable for Key Stage 3/4


To look at how and when we can know that we've done enough. 

Preparation and materials

None needed.


  1. I wonder if you've ever realized that you've done enough or that you're at the end of your tether? Do you know what being at the end of your tether means? A tether is something that holds an animal to something. Coming to the end of the tether means that you are close to snapping, that you've simply had enough. I know that I've heard my mother say ‘enough is enough’ and that I've probably said it myself but, sometimes, it's important to know that you've done enough and that taking a back seat or changing what you're doing is a good thing.

  2. Lazuli Tau, the founder of Taoism, is well known for his wisdom. He said, ‘He who knows that enough is enough will always have enough.’ This is suggesting that, if you are aware of your role and what is happening in a situation, you should know when you've done enough. Either you have helped and the outcome has been positive, or sometimes knowing that you can no longer help or do anything for the situation means that you will have strength left for yourself.

  3. Giving your all is sometimes to be encouraged. If you talk to athletes at the end of the race, they might well say that they have given their all. But a 5,000 metre runner wouldn't sprint for the first 400 metres, as she simply wouldn't have anything left in the tank. I remember watching the Olympics and seeing swimmers and rowers who were disappointed with silver or bronze medals because they felt that they hadn't quite done enough. However, it’s about being able to judge the situation and also know when you need to give your all and if and when you need to push that little bit further. Pushing as far as you can is good and helps you. Test your limits and know your boundaries, but pushing further than that might make you unwell or even more stressed than you need to be.

  4. So let's look at when you can perhaps say that you've done enough. Have you helped a friend recently, and although you know he or she still needs your help, you're finding that you can't always help that person? Maybe his or her issue is too big for you to deal with, or maybe you need some time to concentrate on your school work. It's important to be able to say to that friend, that you don't think you can help them any more. There's no cowardice or lack of friendship in being honest with a friend because you know you can no longer help.

  5. Do you have someone who you can go to when it all gets too much? Do you take some time out for yourself? So many of us are great at giving advice, but not so good at taking the advice ourselves. What would we say to ourselves if we could take a step away? It's likely that, if someone were a friend and we saw that he or she were struggling, we would tell the person to chill out, calm down and take some time off. Maybe we should listen to what we tell other people: don't take on too many clubs, or jobs, or social engagements. Make sure you have enough time to do the things you do well, rather than doing lots of things and not giving of your best.

  6. Likewise, only doing the minimum can be just as damaging as giving too much of yourself. If you only do the least amount of revision for your exams, this may well leave you without all the knowledge that you need to answer all the questions or to do the best that you can and should be able to do. Can you, on results day, really look at yourself in the mirror and say that you did your best, you did enough? If you know that there was more that you could have done, maybe you did not quite give ‘enough’. But if you know deep down that you did do enough and that you tried your best, it shouldn't matter what those results are; you gave your all and you did your best and you should be pleased and proud of yourself for that. 

Time for reflection

This week, or even today, try to take some time to look at things and see if you're giving too much or not giving enough because, as Lazuli Tau said, ‘He who knows that enough is enough will always have enough.


Play some restful music, by Enya perhaps, as students leave.

Publication date: May 2015   (Vol.17 No.5)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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