The Lost Art of Moderation
So it's only fitting that I write a blog post be on something that sounds mind-numbingly obvious.
Moderation was the star of the lectures we all got as children when we wanted all the crayons and pitched a fit when someone wanted to borrow the red.
It became noticeable again when we first lived by ourselves and realized there was nothing stopping us from eating that entire roll of slice-n-bake cookies if we reeeeally wanted to.
These are two obvious examples of a lack of moderation: restraining ourselves from taking too much of a good thing. This is the most common context in which it is discussed. Most people talk about moderation in terms of keeping ourselves from doing/taking/having/eating too much of what we really want to do/take/have/eat.
However, this is only one end of the spectrum. There is also another (equally important) application for the concept of moderation. We will now take a brief foray into an extended metaphor, but bare with me. I promise we'll return to the land of the literal in a few seconds:
Picture you find yourself somewhere you really don't want to be, such as the very edge of a fairly large board that just happens to be floating in shark infested waters. (Totally plausible, right?) So, the ultimate goal is obvious: get to the very middle of the board where you are 1) most stable and 2) furthest away from the possibility of falling off and forcibly fraternizing with creatures that have far too many teeth.
To get to this ultimate goal the QUICKEST one would stand up and walk, run, or sprint to the center of the board. However, anyone who has ever played at the pool knows what happens if you stand up and/or make any sudden movements at the edge of a raft... SPLASH!
So what would you do to get away from the sharks to the safety at the center of the board? We would all probably follow somewhat similar sequences of events:
2) Quietly panic inside our heads
3) Figure out what needed to be done
4) Start slowly but steadily inching our way towards safety
Now, returning to the real world (no more sharks, I promise), let's apply this same process to what happens when we feel like we're in a precarious and undesirable position in our lives. We have all been there. You realize you've put on a little (or a lot) more weight than you're comfortable with, you decide you're on the wrong career path, you're single and you don't want to be or you realize you're in the wrong relationship, you need to get a new job or you aren't progressing fast enough in your current job, you have a fight with a friend....
There are infinite numbers of problems we could have that are probably just as scary as our metaphorical sharks. And, just like our fictional selves, what seems to be the quickest way to fix things is to drop everything and sprint towards "safety" aka the resolution of the problem. One example we've probably all experienced is realizing we've gained some weight and deciding to go on a very strict diet until we look like a supermodel.
What happens then?
We probably sustained the diet for a few days, weeks, or even months, but chances are it wasn't sustainable. And when we did eventually fail (maybe it was as small as eating a bite of something we weren't supposed to) the entire thing came crumbling down.
READ THIS. CONSIDER IT. SERIOUSLY. HERE'S THE IMPORTANT PART:
It was not your fault that you couldn't sustain this crazy rapid change or solution. It was not a lack of willpower or a failure of your mental strength or sticking power. It was not because you weren't good enough and it was not because you aren't capable of achieving your ultimate goal.
(Read the previous paragraph over and over until you believe it and then proceed...)
Here's why it didn't work. You made the change in the same way your metaphorical self stood up on the edge of the raft and tried to sprint towards the center. Only the .01% of the population that is actively employed by Cirque Du Soleil could actually make that sprint without falling into the water, and it is similarly unrealistic to make a major life change instantaneously and have it stick. The problem wasn't you, and it wasn't your goal, it was the APPROACH that is all of our first instinct to take when we have a problem we want to fix as fast as possible.
Now let's go back to the shark problem and look at the solution we agreed on. (I'll wait while you scroll up.) The first thing you did was to figure out what needed to be done (well, after freezing and panicking that is). This is also the first step that happens when making a life change the smart way.
ASSIGNMENT: Figure out what your desired outcome looks like. What do you want to look like in a year? How do you want to feel? What do you want to be able to do? Don't just think about it; WRITE IT DOWN! Seriously, write it down.
Now that you know what you want, scroll back up and read the next/last step of the getting-away-from-the-sharks problem. The last step was taking slow, small, and consistent steps towards your goal. And --surprise-- it's the same when you're trying to make a life change. So look at what you've written and think of small, consistent steps you can take.
Is your goal to lose weight? Instead of going on a crazy diet and moving into the gym, consider leaving four bites on your plate at every meal and adding in a 10 minute at-home cardio blast before you hop in the shower every morning. Sound doable? Sound sustainable? Good. It is. And, the kicker is that this small change will not only get you to your goal faster than a crazy diet and workout binge (that you fall off after two days) but it will allow you to STAY at that goal long term.
BASIC SUMMARY: It may be tempting to go at our goals all in one giant leap, but by taking small, manageable, sustainable, daily steps toward your goal, you will reach your goal faster and be able to maintain it once you get there.
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