The Myth of Enough

By LIFT on July 29, 2014

Categories: Our Work

Have you ever felt like you were not enough? Not smart enough? Successful enough? Attractive enough? Not working hard enough? That you were lacking in some unmeasurable but fundamental way?

Well, I am here to tell you that you are not enough. You are not enough. I am not enough. No one by themselves is enough. Here’s why.

Here at LIFT, we work every day with hardworking, can-do individuals who are simply trying to create better lives for themselves and their families. The American Dream tells us that if we work hard enough, we will succeed — that everything will go well and that we will prosper. But for many of our Members, no matter how hard they work to get back on their feet, it is just not enough because you know what, sometimes enough is just not, well, enough.

At LIFT, we believe that there are three foundations that help someone to be successful. There are the financial foundations such as a job, a safe home, and an education. It is these financial foundations that are traditionally thought of as making someone successful. I call this the “enough foundations.” They are what are usually thought of as enough to help someone get out of poverty. However, these financial foundations are actually not enough to help someone lift themselves out of poverty for good. In order to not fall back into poverty, people need personal foundations — the confidence and skills to manage tough times — as well as social foundations — including support networks of family, friends and advocates. I call these the “root foundations” because they are the supports that are hard to see or measure but play a critical role in nourishing people when times get hard.

These social and personal foundations are the game changers in helping Members to be successful in meeting their goals. In fact, a recent pilot study done by LIFT found that three of the top five factors that predicted success were related to social and personal foundations. What does that mean? It means that people who said that they felt connected to their community, believed in themselves, and that LIFT helped them build their confidence were more likely to met their goals than those who did not report those beliefs. Now this study is still in its pilot phase, but if this is what we are finding in just two LIFT offices in two LIFT cities, imagine what we could discover when we ask Members in every LIFT city about their experiences. There is the very real chance that we can disprove the belief that a job or a home is enough to lift someone out of poverty for good.

This whole idea of enough is a myth. Only when people are supported with strong financial, personal, and social foundations will they be able to create positive and lasting changes in their lives. Until then, let’s not kid ourselves and let’s work together to help build all of the foundations our struggling neighbors need to get out of poverty for good.