On lagom

Not too much, not too little, just enough.

For the past two years, I’ve been working on an edtech startup with my co-founders and a small team. While it’s been deeply satisfying in many ways, it recently became clear to me that I was ignoring the stress that came with it and overlooking the bad habits I had developed. I’ve been a night owl for as long as I can remember, but even for a late riser, my 4 am average bedtime was unsustainable. I tried blocking off evenings and Saturdays for personal time, but I repeatedly failed to maintain appropriate boundaries. Something had to change.

At the start of this year, I decided to take a step back and go on a sabbatical, driven by a desire to find more balance in my life. I first learned about the Swedish concept of lagom - meaning "just the right amount" - several years ago. But its emphasis on moderation has never felt more relevant.

Even as I begin this sabbatical, I feel a tinge of guilt at departing from the Western ideal of ceaseless hard work and the relentless pursuit of more. The “go big or go home” mindset is ingrained in me, and shaking it off will take conscious effort. But I hope to reorient my priorities by intentionally investing in the other aspects of my life I value rather than letting my work dictate everything else.

Lagom applies to more than just work. In fact, Swedish minimalist design and focus on quality over quantity stems from the same fundamental philosophy. Our time living nomadically and traveling with only what could fit in our car taught my wife and me an important lesson: we don't need much stuff to live comfortably. After two years on the road, most of our possessions sat unused in storage. They were clearly unnecessary. Now settling in Miami, we're applying that lesson. Our outlook on what we truly need has shifted, and we're doing a pretty good job of embodying lagom in this part of our lives.

Ultimately, the philosophy of “not too much, not too little, just enough” is a reminder to avoid excess and seek balance as a recipe for sustained contentment. Start with the part of your life where moderation comes with ease. I suspect that applying this principle in one area of life naturally inspires the same in others.