The idea of moderation often turns people off. They relate it to the ideas of things like not doing what they want, or being a weak negotiator. But that line of thought misses the point. Moderation as described by Oscar Wilde, Plato, Seneca, and Plutarch is to do everything in moderation, including moderation. It isn’t about not doing things, it’s about knowing when to and when not to. It’s about having balance in your life.
In the end, a balanced life typically let’s you grow and be productive while still providing time and energy to have fun. If you are apathetic, you are less likely to go after what really makes you happy. If you are too passionate about one thing, you may get tunnel vision and start neglecting other important parts of your life.
In 2013 Bronnie Ware, a nurse in a palliative care unit, did a study to uncover the most common regrets from the dying. The top 5 were the following:
- I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
- I wish I didn’t work so hard.
- I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
- I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
- I wish that I had let myself be happier.
Notice that just about every one of these regrets is a form of putting themselves out there. These can be hard things to do. To do these things, or take any risk, it is best to have a solid base to jump from. So if you do decide to take that risk and put yourself out there, and it doesn’t go as well as you had hoped, you can always come back to your base and try again. This is where moderation comes in. Practicing moderation creates a balance in your life so that no one thing can push you over the edge, or completely turn your world upside down. It gives you stability and strength from which you can jump into dreams and loves and see where you land.
There are many types of moderation, but in the end they are all accomplished through awareness and self control. Here are a few examples:
- Work-life balance. Do not work so much that you neglect your loved ones, or your own happiness. Do not work so little that you negatively impact the people that are counting on you.
- Do not try to love so hard that you smother people. But do not neglect either.
- Do not let yourself get consumed by just one idea or project. It will change your sense of reality and your priorities will follow.
- Caring only about yourself is selfish and damaging, caring only about others and not yourself is dangerous.
More Ways to Think About Moderation
Using Your Best Judgment
Moderation isn’t about never doing things. It’s about knowing when to and when not to. It’s about striking a balance between responsibility and the occasional treat. Understanding if you are taking things too far, or if others are. Use your awareness to identify these things, and choose for yourself if now is the right time to just let loose and not worry about the consequences, or if it’s really not that big of a deal (even though it feels like it is right now) and it’s time to tone it down. Use your best judgment.
Problem Solving & Tackling Goals
Take problem solving and goals like you do hosting a full meal with friends. You never try to do it all at once, you break it down into steps. But by the end you are happy and satisfied:
- Pick and choose what you’re going to eat (the problem, or goal).
- Pick who you want to invite and what you want them to bring (Who you want to be part of the process, and what they contribute).
- Pick a time when you are going to have the meal (Set a date when you will start taking action for the problem or goal).
- The first course of the meal is something small to wet your appetite (Start with a small task that gets you moving forward).
- As you get into the main course, take small dignified bites (Methodically carve off parts of the problem and tackle them one at a time).
- Enjoy the taste of each bite (Take the time to notice your progress, and reward yourself for your accomplishments).
- Enjoy the company at your meal (Pause to appreciate the people on your team and notice that going through the process is a source of enjoyment too).
- Stick around for good conversation after the meal (Let yourself and others enjoy the accomplishment together).
- Clean up and let others help (Take care of any loose ends, and let others help you do it).
- Be proud of a successful night, but know that it was the whole meal that you enjoyed (Take pride in your accomplishment, but realize it was the whole process that was so rewarding)
- Eating something delicious? Make yourself take it slow. Enjoy it.
- When you say, “Just one more chip,” make it that way. Tip: take the last one and close the bag while you’re eating it. If the bag is closed and in the cupboard by the time you’re done eating it, you won’t have the urge to grab another. Works for any snack.
- Pick one day this week you’re going to let loose (safely) with friends.
- Pick one day this week you’re going to work hard and be the best you can be (Week 1)
- Pick one day this week you’re going to make sure you won’t let work get in the way of spending time with people or relaxing.
- Want something? Don’t just buy it outright. Shop for deals.
- Everyone has a weakness. Chocolate. Ice cream. Video games. Whatever it is, expose yourself to it until you feel that craving. Pay attention to that craving and how it feels. Know that feeling. Know that it is your choice to give in or to stay strong. Choose to stay strong, knowing that another time you will get to give in. But that time is set by you, not the craving.
- Approach problems in moderation. Pick and choose which ones you want to tackle first. Don’t try to do everything at once.