You can’t have it all.

For many of us, that phrase—dripping with grandmotherly insight—lands like a disappointing roadblock hell-bent on limiting us when all we want to do is soar past every limit in sight.

Jeez, isn’t having it all precisely what a steady diet of American dream ideology, Top 40 song lyrics, and stories of resolve conquering deprivation tell us we can do in this country?

If you’re anything like me, after years of those five words sounding to your go-getter ears like a worldview trying to stifle you—one fine day, you start hearing them a little differently.

  • And what once struck you as a blockade starts to resemble a gateway.
  • And what once looked like not enough now appears as the right amount.
  • And all of a sudden, you couldn’t be happier to only have some.
  • And no, you’re not quite sure what caused it, but you blink and the world looks different.

Maybe it was the sharp glimpse of emptiness you caught when looking hard at a friend’s or loved one’s “perfect.” Maybe drowning in a sea of too many halfway open doors and unmet promises prompted you to realize there must be another way. Maybe life knocked you down and you lost hold of everything, and as you slowly stood back up, you found yourself reaching only for some things.

Whatever the reason—You begin to feel yourself slow down, pull over, and pay attention. You start to recognize the bounty in limits. You start wanting less and feeling more.

And as you follow this thread, the wisdom, the opportunity, and indeed the joy of not having it all begins to unfold into your life with glorious, resounding relief.

Thank God, you think. No wonder, you laugh. My time and energy are precious resources, you realize. The more I give to the places in my life that feed me, the more I grow, you notice. The more I give to the places in my life where I scurry around grasping, the more I suffer, you humbly acknowledge.

And those thoughts awaken questions.

Has my striving for more actually made me happier or wiser? Or have I just grown used to the chase?  

Why was having it all ever my goal in the first place?  What all do I really need? What all do I really want?

And as you answer the questions, more just keep rolling in the door. (Don’t worry. That’s a good sign.)

And the more thoughts in this direction that you listen to, the more questions you pause long enough to answer, the more you start to see this lesson play itself out on countless life frontiers.

It shows up in what you need, how you love, what you earn, how you spend, what you seek, how you listen, what you give, and who you know, believe, and trust yourself to be.

And the more it shows up, guess what? The less you need and the less you want.