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Is It Enough?

Enough is enough

by Helen Bryant (revised, originally published in 2013)

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)


To consider how we know when we’ve done enough.

Preparation and materials

  • None required.


  1. I wonder if you’ve ever realized that you’ve had enough or felt like you’re at the end of your tether. Do you know what being at the end of your tether means? A tether is a rope or chain that is used to tie an animal to something. Coming to the end of your tether means that you are close to snapping, that you’ve had enough.

    We might have heard our parents or teachers saying, ‘Enough is enough,’ and we might even have said it ourselves. Sometimes, it’s important to know that we’ve done enough and that taking a back seat or changing what we are doing is a good thing.

  2. Laozi, the founder of Taoism, is well known for his wisdom. He said, ‘He who knows that enough is enough will always have enough.’ So, 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 you have realized that you can no longer help or do anything for the situation and you need enough strength left for yourself.

  3. Giving your all is to be encouraged. If you talk to athletes at the end of a race, they are likely to say that they have given their all. However, a 5,000-metre runner wouldn’t sprint for the first 400 metres because otherwise, they wouldn’t have anything left in the tank. We’ve probably all watched the Olympics or other sporting events and seen swimmers and rowers who were disappointed with silver or bronze medals because they felt that they hadn’t done quite enough.

    For all of us, it’s important to learn to judge situations and know when you need to give your all. Pushing as far as we can is good and helps us. We can learn to test our limits and know our boundaries, but pushing further than that might make us unwell or more stressed than we need to be.

  4. Let’s consider some situations when we might say that we’ve done enough.

    Have we helped a friend recently, only to find that, although we know that they still need our help, we can’t sustain helping that person? Maybe their issue is too big for us to deal with, or maybe we need time to concentrate on our schoolwork. It’s important to be able to tell that friend that we don’t think that we can help them any more. There’s no cowardice or lack of friendship in being honest with a friend because we know that we can no longer help.

Time for reflection

Ask the students to consider the following questions.

- Do we have someone we can turn to when it all gets too much?
- Do we take some time out for ourselves?

Pause to allow time for thought.

Many of us are great at giving advice, but not so good at taking it ourselves. What would we say to ourselves if we could take a step back? If we saw that a friend of ours was struggling, we would probably tell them to chill out, calm down and take some time out. Maybe we should listen to what we tell other people: don’t take on too many clubs, jobs or social engagements. Let’s make sure that we have enough time to do the things that we do well or enjoy, rather than doing lots of things and not giving our best.

Only doing the bare minimum can be just as damaging as giving too much of ourselves. If we only do a small amount of revision for our exams, we may not have the knowledge that we need to answer all the questions or to do our best. On results day, can we look at ourselves in the mirror and say that we did our best, we did enough? If we know that we could have done more, maybe we did not quite give ‘enough’. However, if we know that we did do enough and that we tried our best, it shouldn’t matter what those results are; we gave our all, we did our best and we should be pleased and proud of ourselves for that.

This week, or even today, try to take some time to look at things and see whether you’re giving too much or not enough. Remember that saying by Laozi: ‘He who knows that enough is enough will always have enough.’


You may wish to play some peaceful music. An example is available at: (over 3 hours long)

Publication date: September 2021   (Vol.23 No.9)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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