Rethinking Moderation: When to Go All In

By Greg Baer M.D.

April 20, 2016

As a lifelong student of human behavior and personal growth, I've often encountered the age-old adage of "moderation in all things."

While this principle has stood the test of time, I've come to realize that it's not always the best approach.

In this article, I'll challenge this conventional wisdom and explore when moderation serves us well and when it's better to embrace extremes.

Join me as we look into this thought-provoking topic that could reshape how you approach various aspects of your life.

The Ancient Wisdom of Moderation: A Critical Look

I am confident—without doing a statistical survey—that most people would agree with the axiom, “moderation in all things is the best policy,” first found vaguely in the writings of the Greek poet Hesiod (about 700 B.C.) and then expressed word for word by the Roman dramatist Plautus in about 200 B.C.

But does relative acceptance and establishment by time—about 2500 years—make a principle true? No, it doesn’t. The truth is, whether moderation is a virtue depends on what exactly is being moderated.

Suppose we’re talking about a substance or behavior that is good at one quantity or frequency but becomes detrimental at a different quantity or frequency.

Let’s look, for example at sex, food, or pain-killing drugs. If these are used none at all, we’d have no people, starvation, and needless pain.

If they’re used excessively, we get sex addiction, obesity, and drug addiction.

The Dangers of Moderation in Virtues and Values

So with some substances or behaviors, moderation is wisdom, but moderation needs to be discarded when considering obviously good or destructive substances or behaviors.

Take virtue, for example. Should we be moderate with virtue? Or love? Nah, let’s go crazy with virtue and love, incorporating and spreading them as much as humanly possible.

What about crime or intolerance or hated? Should we exercise moderation, or is it obvious that we should avoid them completely?

Real Love®: Balancing Enthusiasm with Wisdom

What about Real Love®? Can this be taken too far? Is moderation sometimes the solution? Sure. We can be way too pushy about teaching Real Love® principles, so moderation would be useful.

Giving can be a part of loving, to take another example, but at its extreme it results in loss of our identity and depletion of our energy. Again moderation would be wise.

Embracing Extremes: The Case for Full Commitment

Why is this discussion about moderation useful? Because people often talk about the need for balance, as though it were always good. But no, sometimes we don’t need more “balance.”

We need simply to identify what things need more moderation and then go wild and crazy with the rest: love, creativity, kindness, courage, faith, and more.

Often we don’t need balance. The world needs more full-tilt commitment to goodness, commitment with utter abandon.

Quotes to Inspire: Challenging Moderation

“I'm the foe of moderation, the champion of excess. I'd rather be strongly wrong than weakly right." (Tallulah Bankhead)

“To enjoy the flavor of life, take big bites. Moderation is for monks.” (Robert A. Heinlein)

“Fear and dull disposition, lukewarmness and sloth, are not seldom wont to cloak themselves under the affected name of moderation." (John Milton)

Don't know where to start?

Start with these resources:

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About the author 

Greg Baer, M.D.

I am the founder of The Real Love® Company, Inc, a non-profit organization. Following the sale of my successful ophthalmology practice I have dedicated the past 25 years to teaching people a remarkable process that replaces all of life's "crazy" with peace, confidence and meaning in various aspects of their personal lives, including parenting, marriages, the workplace and more.

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