Too many things, too many commitments, too many stimuli… Modern life is marked by excesses. These excesses put unnecessary pressure on us, so it's no wonder that minimalism is gaining ground as an alternative to combat all the 'too many'. The Swedes, which are the ninth happiest country in the world, have a very interesting concept for finding the balance between excess and minimalism: lagom.
What is lagom?
Lagom is a word that could be literally translated as "the right amount", it refers to balance in different aspects of life. It does not embrace any extremes, but it does not deny them either because its goal is to maintain harmony.
From the etymological point of view, the word lagom derives from an old custom which was called “laget om” and meant to sit in a group. He was referring to the times when the Vikings gathered around the fire after a hard day's work and passed horns full of mead. Everyone was expected to drink only a fair share so that everyone could drink. Therefore, lagom is a principle that includes moderation, in which nothing is too much or too little, but just right.
Applied to our daily life, lagom encourages us to enjoy a simpler life by finding the balance between simplicity and excess, an intermediate point that allows us to focus on what is truly important to us and makes us happy.
How to apply lagom without falling into frustration?
For some people, this restraint is synonymous with frustration or iron self-control that separates us from authenticity and spontaneity. They think that keeping us in balance requires tremendous willpower that ends up wearing us down. In reality this is not the case.
For the concept of lagom to truly imply a huge change in our life, we need to do an inner work in two stages:
- Unlearning much of what we have learned, which means not wanting what others want
- Finding what we really want, what makes us happy.
So we can be aware of what we really need, while also identifying all the insignificant things or activities that we can do without. It is about learning to be happy with fewer things, but without feeling inhibited, as that would imply a sense of frustration. It is about learning to love more what we have and enjoy it, instead of longing for what we don't have.
Lagom is also about assertively managing our emotions, so they don't take over and make us make decisions that we will regret later. This does not mean suppressing emotions but assertively channeling them.
When inner change occurs, lagom is not a rope that keeps you tied to moderation, but a light that guides you towards serenity and joy, away from a stressful lifestyle. It is about not doing the useless or the superfluous, focusing on the essential and knowing when to stop.
We must also keep in mind that each person has their own lagom state. My lagom state is not the same as yours, but from balance and moderation we can access the spaces of mutual recognition that allow us to connect from our essence.
Lagom takes us into a space of individual satisfaction while we create harmony in the social groups in which we are inserted. Embracing this concept helps us reduce our needs, simplify our lives and banish stress to feel more satisfied, happy and balanced.
Remember the Swedish phrase: Lagom är bäst, which means: "enough is as good as a feast". Which is very similar to the advice Epicurus left us many centuries ago: "be moderate to savor the joys of life in abundance".