Just because a little is good doesn’t mean a lot is better

I take a long walk almost every day, and very occasionally, I’ll find that I’m in the mood to run. So I’ll run.

Once I get home, my body happily tired and my face red, I inevitably end up thinking, “That was incredible! I should run every day!”

And a moment later: “I should run three miles every day!”

 “Or five miles!”

“Maybe I should train for a marathon! Or a half marathon, at least.”

I call this the “if some is good, more is better” train of thought, and it doesn’t just apply to running.

I felt so good having just a light salad for lunch – I should have that every day!

It was so great that I stayed late at work to get everything done – I should do that all the time so I can feel more on top of things. 

And it doesn’t just apply to “virtuous” things:

Eating one cookie makes us happy, we think, so three must make us even happier.

Watching YouTube videos for 20 minutes felt like a treat, so doing that for four hours must be even better.

Does that sound familiar?

And if you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know that I’m all for listening to yourself in all areas of life. If you truly feel awesome running five miles a day or eating five cookies every day, please go for it.

But it’s important to acknowledge that sometimes an experience, a food, a relationship is perfect because it’s limited.

More importantly, it is a profound act of kindness to yourself to impose limits.

Let’s be real: it sometimes takes some serious discipline to do this, both for virtuous and indulgent experiences. It can be just as tempting to exercise a little more as it can to eat a little more of that cake.

You’ve gotta know yourself: when is that little voice inside really saying she needs more, and when is she saying, “Actually, I’m good for now.”

Of course, this isn’t a new idea. Even the Buddha preached a “middle way” of moderation that was neither too virtuous nor too indulgent.

But at least for me, there’s a big difference between abstractly thinking about moderation and finding concrete ways to implement it in my own life.

With that in mind, my challenge for you this week is to pay attention to that delicate moment when you find yourself entering into the “if some is good, more must be better” zone. Notice when you go overboard. In what areas of life do you tend to do too much? Eating, relationships, exercise, work? Even noticing makes a huge difference, over time.

And for extra credit: share in the comments an area of life in which you’ve been struggling with finding the right balance, or a victory when you stopped right at the perfect "just enough" moment! I’d love to commiserate or celebrate with you.

All my love,