What My Daughter’s Toothbrush Taught Me

My daughter got a new toothbrush this weekend. It is one of those where you push a button and the green light lights up. It stays green for roughly one minute, then briefly turns yellow and finally turns read to indicate you have brushed your teeth long enough and can now stop. I was brushing her teeth tonight (my first time with the new toothbrush) and couldn’t help thinking how nice it would be to have a timer like this in a number of areas in my life.

Exercising – I would LOVE a timer that would signal when I had worked out for the optimal amount of time with the optimal amount of effort and could stop guilt-free. This would help me optimize my workout without having the responsibility of knowing when I was slacking off too much. I really struggle with knowing if I should have run longer or harder or was what I did “good enough”.

Work – Oftentimes we are required to work a specific “shift” for our jobs (i.e., 9-5 or 10-8) and know we are done working once the magical hour arrives, but wouldn’t it be nice to have some way of signaling we had completed our optimal amount of work for the day and could call it quits. Something that indicates we have reached some threshold and surpassing it would lead to reduced productivity. I think this is the “law of diminishing returns” or something like that (I am currently too lazy to look it up).

Parenting – I think we (parents) often struggle with knowing when we have done “enough”. We are always worried we should be doing more for and with our children. (I know I do.) Would it not be stupendous to have a way of knowing you have done enough so your kid will be OK. Once this enough is reached, you could relax a bit without too much guilt.

Giving back – Many of us want to repay those who have given to us by returning the favor to others. We want to help those who are less fortunate and support those who require assistance. The difficulty is there is always someone who needs something. Where do we draw the line? When have we done enough? I would LOVE some sort of gauge that could tell me I have given back enough to avoid guilt when I sometimes have to (or choose to) say, “No”. Some indicator that my karmic debt has been repaid (even if only temporarily).

Saving – Oh, how I wish I could somehow know exactly how much money I need to have saved to take care of me and mine in the future. There are definitely numbers out there floating around, but there never seems to be a point where you are told to stop, relax and enjoy yourself. I wish my bank account came with an alarm which would sound once my account reached a balance sufficient to take care of my family’s future needs (even though I think I might never actually reach it).

In writing this I had a couple of thoughts. First, I spend way too much time thinking about my daughter’s toothbrush and how it impacts my world view. Secondly, most of these topics really focused on the idea of “good enough” and my desire to find some external gauge by which I could determine when I finally reached it. Maybe I need to make these determinations on my own rather than relying on someone or something else to decide for me.

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