Moderation & the 80/20 Rule


moderationEpicurus (the philosopher) brilliantly once said, “Be moderate in order to taste the joys of life in abundance.” What Epicurus is saying is that by doing things in moderation, we won’t (likely) ever have to exclude ourselves from things that give us joy.   If we stop for a minute and think, we all would agree that doing things in moderation (e.g. not “overdoing it”) is smarter and more sustainable in one’s life. The key is to remember this and apply the required discipline sooner than later.

Moderation, in my opinion, can be simply managed by applying the “80/20 rule”.   In my experience, as long as I behaved in a disciplined manner 80% of the time, that would afford me the luxury of indulging 20% of the time. This, today, is my definition of moderation and what I view as the simplest way to operate.

In my younger years, I never contemplated the idea of 80/20 as a governor of sorts. Today, I ensure that the 80/20 rule is part of the consideration set all of the time (and it’s automatic now). In other words, approximately 8 out of 10 days, I will exercise and eat as well as possible, drink minimally, get good rest and be disciplined with my work. The rest of the time (2 out of 10 days or 20% of the time), I’ll allow myself to indulge or ‘cheat’ a little bit – if I feel like it.

The reason the 80/20 rule works so well for me is because I never feel that I have to totally stop doing anything. If I thought that I could never again have a few drinks at a bar, sit on the sofa and do nothing, eat a huge ice cream Sunday or junk food, be generally lazy, etc. (the list goes on), I would resent it. Knowing that I can have or do whatever I really want IN MODERATION (approximately 20% of the time or less) makes is very easy (psychologically) to not do or have those things MOST of the time.  We shouldn’t really limit ourselves from things that make us happy – just be sure that you don’t overuse them or overdo them. A good example of moderation can be found in a very strict diet / health-related book called The Four Hour Body. In this book, Tim Ferris suggests that people follow his strict low carb diet for 6-days a week. Then, on the 7th day, according to Tim, people are encouraged to indulge in whatever foods they want or have been missing. Knowing that you only have to be disciplined for 6-days makes it sustainable (and Tim’s recommendation fits nicely within the 80/20 rule). This same concept applies in life.

Think about things that you do often or in moderation. Are there things that you should be doing less? Things you know should be done in moderation usually have consequences when overdone. Alcohol and rich / fatty foods are common examples of this. Alcohol, in moderation, is ok. Alcohol every day may not be because of serious health and social consequences. A big bowl of ice cream on the weekend is ok, while having that daily may not be because of diet, health and fitness consequences. Being in the sun without sunblock once is a while may be ok. Being in the sun daily without sun block (in hopes of becoming bronzed) is not healthy (for obvious health reasons). Partying until 3am is fine in moderation. Staying out at clubs until 3am several nights a week is not. Moderate, moderate, moderate… Each of us is unique, but we all know what requires moderation in our lives. On the bright side, when you do things less frequently, they will NOT become mundane and you will appreciate them even more.

What are you overdoing? What have you moderated lately? What do you need to moderate?

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