Mediating Moderation

“Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance and order and rhythm and harmony.” ~ Thomas Merton

Permit me to open with (and groan if you will) the time-honored saying, “Everything in moderation.” It’s been attributed to many though most often with Aristotle or Socrates. For me, it’s grounded in the mother’s advice column.

With life fleeting, the temptation to overindulge is ever-present. We’d like to derive as much pleasure as possible from everything such as what we eat or what we do, Or, conversely, we are so driven to stay healthy that we throw ourselves into exercise or work with abandon. And there are those who would say the true means of achieving what you want lies not in overdoing it, but in moderation.

The ancient Greeks practiced moderation in many things, believing that in excess, virtues became vices. And so it is. Things that benefit your body or soul in one amount, whether it is eating, thinking, drinking, sunbathing, political expression, or medication, can be harmful in higher amounts.

The concept of moderation simply means avoiding extremes; finding strategies and habits that can be maintained over the long-term without cycling between one extreme and the other. Think of it as a source of steadiness. Cases in point: sleeping in for hours may seem a wonderful idea until you consider the time lost and the difficulty you may have sleeping later. Or, avoiding all sweets feels like the healthiest choice, but it may not be if it’s making you feel deprived.

This isn’t easy work, yet on a deeper level, moderation allows you just enough of any one thing for it to be satisfying, but not enough for it to be detrimental. Thus, it unlocks a healthy lifestyle without denying any pleasures, any ambitions, or your changing will – though equilibrium in all things.

How can moderation benefit you? Consider these three perspectives:

  1. Listen to How You Feel. If you’re complaining about your weight, your budget, or something else, don’t just keep complaining – take action. Make a concrete plan for how you’re going to improve your life; one that sets goals and deadlines yet has some flexibility. A moderate (versus extreme or rigid) plan will help you stick to it long-term.
  2. Moderation helps with clarity. Being moderate implies you can clearly distinguish between the necessities and unnecessary luxuries in life. When you ask “Do I really need this?” “Do I have enough in life?” you become more mindful and you learn to appreciate the balance that you can or already possess.
  3. You become less of a mindless consumer. When you are moderate, you lessen your focus on “the more, the better.” You can enjoy more of your life without huge sacrifices or undesired consequences.

In practicing moderation, maybe you’ll even find the means to be more generous with your time, happiness, thriftiness, and vigor.

(Author disclaimer: I cannot vouch for how this applies to the consumption of dark chocolate.)

22 thoughts on “Mediating Moderation

  1. “Being moderate implies you can clearly distinguish between the necessities and unnecessary luxuries in life.” Such a key insight. At the heart of life. Great post Eric.

    • Reading your comment brings The Seven Deadly Sins and Seven Heavenly Virtues to mind. Thanks for reminding that these, and living in between, are at the heart of life. As with so many facets of being, it’s about choosing.

    • Concepts can, indeed, be brilliant and/or beautiful…if we choose to engage and integrate applicable ones into our lives. What works for you, won’t always for me and vice versa. I’ll admit to not always stepping into moderation, especially when there’s adrenaline involved. Thank you for your very kind comment, GW. 🙂

  2. Imagine the lively debates between the champions of moderation and the cult of Hedonism back in dem Greek days…missed the ‘r’ the first time. Neither philosophy proved itself superior before that culture fell to hordes who were single mindedly conquering the world for no reason other than some charismatic’s desire for conquest…except, maybe, to the philosophically inclined individual champions of moderation of hedonism. Good luck sorting this out…nothing seems to work for more than a few people for an easily defined period of time in a certain age. It always seems to get to a personal level how we waste our time, if any agreement can be reached on what ime it is, what year it is, how we are supposed to measure it, whether this is one epoch or another, or if it’s all ended long ago and this is just a ripple-effect dream we’re living in…ohhhh, I love philosophy.
    Eric…set the controls for the heart of the sun, since that’s the only source of energy entering our tiny bit of existence…let’s see what’s going on up there.

    • I almost didn’t ‘go Greek’ when I was crafting the post, specifically because of the hedonistic history. Rather than attempt to sort this out, I’m okay with letting eras and contrasts lie. To your point, however, it is very much a “personal” matter and our age definitely plays into the equation. To your suggestion, I’m thinking about hitching a ride on Helios’s chariot…

      Thanks, always, for your thoughtful perspective/shares.

    • Thanks! Post-writing the piece I had to acknowledge to myself that I don’t always walk my talk, at least when it comes to dark chocolate. Deprivation can be cruel. 🙂 Appreciate your commenting.

    • LOL… does your comment imply you prefer to lean extreme? In some cases, we can see where an ‘all or nothing’ approach could be appropriate, beneficial and rewarding. At least you gave it a try. I did that once with Brussel Sprouts. 🙂

  3. 1. “Mindfulness” and “life balance” tend to go hand in hand ~ the more aware we become, the more we strive for balance in all things.

    2. The law of diminishing marginal utility applies to almost everything we consume ~ sleep, food, coffee, alcohol, and even chocolate. 😀

    • In the context of “a sense of steadiness,” I agree with you, Jordy. Yet in love there is often a cycling between one extreme and the other. To the extent that one wants or chooses to moderate such cycling, then moderation would apply, wouldn’t it? Your thoughts? Thanks for your thoughtful comment!

      • Yes, but should love be moderated? Should we flatten the high and raise the low? Personally I think love should be intense, both in highs and in lows… It might be easier to choose to moderate the cycling, but then all the passion and heartfelt emotions might be moderated to, which goes against the essentials of love, in my opinion.

    • Even more than it meaning little to so many, I sense a sizable segment of humanity who have little desire to moderate. Why would they when there are so many excesses in which to aspire. Isn’t that what we’re conditioned to strive for?
      As always, grateful for your insight, Chris.

  4. Listen to How You Feel. If you’re complaining about your weight, your budget, or something else, don’t just keep complaining – take action. That is so KEY to change. Just taking action when we don’t want to.

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