Some things are necessary but not sufficient

Some things are necessary but not sufficient. I learned this phrase about 25 years ago and it has helped me in my personal life and as a leader.

  • It speaks of things that are good and essential but by themselves inadequate. 
  • It reveals an incomplete perspective: I’m only seeing part of a large picture.
  • It can infer laziness or lack of thoroughness: I need to be more diligent and exhaustive.   

Here are some examples:

  • You are providing well for your family, but they need more than that. You need to be lovingly involved in their lives.
  • You do have a winsome personality, but that’s not enough. You need to be productive. 
  • You are productive, but that’s not enough. Your people skills are lacking. 
  • Our church does have a good children’s ministry, but we also need a good music ministry.
  • Our organization does have a good R&D department, but our manufacturing is lacking.

How can we spot areas in which we’ve done well but are still lacking? One suggestion: identify an area that is going well and probe for ways in which it could be improved. Name the strength, then, use the coordinating conjunction “but” to identify areas that are lacking or incomplete. 

For instance:

    • We have saved adequately for retirement, but we haven’t planned what we’re going to do in retirement. 
    • Our daughter has been accepted into an elite college, but does she have the discipline to make it?

When communicating with others, be careful how and when you use this secondary phrase (But…). If used excessively or at the wrong time, it can lead to frustration and hopelessness, implying that nothing is ever good enough and that regardless of how hard someone tries, it will never be enough. Emphasize the opening thought: “What you have done is good and important; thank you; that’s commendable,” before introducing the second phrase.  

Identify areas in your life where it could be said, “That’s necessary, but not sufficient.”