“How do you pick one of those?”
I looked up from the small display of mangoes, mildly startled. Even pre-COVID, I was surprised to see someone standing so close and engaging me out of the blue at the grocery store.
But I love to share my wisdom — who doesn’t? — so I happily paused my mango selection and shared with the young man all my best secrets for how to tell when a mango is just right.
“Squeeze it gently; it should give just a little, like the fleshy part of your fingertip. If it has a light fragrance, that’s a good sign. Beyond that, it seems like a gamble: Some mangoes are absolutely delicious; others are mushy no matter how much effort you put into selecting them. You have to be willing to take a chance.”
I handed him a few of the best mangoes I could discern, and we went about our shopping.
Ever since, I’ve thought about the concept of “just right” as it applies to mangoes and to life beyond tropical produce. A strange concept, that tropical fruit might have such an impact on my thought process but, bear with me. I even named my marketing business “A Ripe Mango,” a nod to the experience of getting small business marketing just right, in the way that feels good for you. Even more, I love comparing a ripe mango to an intentional life.
Let’s see what else we can learn from the modest mango.
1. To start, no two mangoes ever seem exactly the same.
Despite your best efforts to select mangoes with just the right softness and slightly-ripe scent, you never really know what you’ll get when you peel the skin. Some are sweet, juicy, and butter-soft, while others are dry and fibrous and the hard, inedible pit consumes 4/5 of the fruit. Cutting a mango feels like a guessing game each time. You simply have to pick a spot and test it.
Selecting a ripe mango tells us that we can control what’s on the inside of the fruit about as much as we can control our own lives — that is to say, we can set ourselves up for success the best we can, but there’s no guarantee you’re getting a delicious mango or ideal circumstances. Life hands us sweetness and pleasure as often as it hands us dry, fibrous fruits and pits.
2. While we can’t control our circumstances, we can continue to choose with intention in all areas of our lives.
We can select our fruit carefully and slowly, just as we do our best to choose our thoughts, actions, and possessions intentionally. We can make our best, educated guesses about what will suit us and bring us joy, and we can intentionally recall the sweet times while putting the disappointments behind us.
3. The beauty and delight of a simple mango is easy to miss if you’re unaccustomed to seeking it out.
They’re accessible to most, a $1 shot of tropical decadence, but many are unaware of their existence and availability. I was 35 before I ever bought a mango; they simply didn’t feel like an option before.
How many other simple joys do we inadvertently overlook or think don’t apply to us? Appreciation for our mundane, daily lifestyles and our simple surroundings — many of us fail to realize it’s possible to love our lives as they are.
4. When a mango is right, it’s right.
When it reaches ripe perfection — or your best estimation of perfection — enjoy it immediately. There’s no sense waiting; the mango will only change for the worse.
Likewise, enjoy the best parts of life now. Life is ever-changing: Our children will grow, our beloved boss will take a new job, our neighborhood will be gentrified and lose its charm. So savor it now, today. Unlike a mango, we don’t know life will get worse as it ages, but we do know life throws us curveballs when we least expect them.
5. Finally, once you’ve experienced judging a mango’s ripeness, that practical life skill can’t be taken away from you.
And once you’ve practiced intentional and simple living, the knowledge also can’t be taken away. At times, life will be imperfect, you’ll be busier than you intend, or you’ll lose your way. But the benchmark of intentionality and simplicity will forever lead you back.
As humans seeking a life of purpose and intention, let’s take a cue from the simple but delightful mango at optimum, “just right” ripeness.
About the Author: Andrea Morris is a small business owner and minimalist living a slow life with her family in Indiana, USA. She helps entrepreneurs bring the principles of minimalism into their businesses through intentional, values-driven, and consistent communication with their customers. Find her at aripemango.com.