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In Praise of Extreme Moderation

June 01, 2018
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北京快3Why does it seem like you can’t throw a paper airplane in some offices without hitting a person who is training for a marathon, planning a 10-day silent meditation retreat, or intending on scaling Kilimanjaro? On top of working 24/7 for a company that doesn’t pay overtime? Extremism is becoming the norm not only in our professional lives but increasingly in our personal lives as well, from politics and parenting to food and fitness.

Extreme parents overinvest in building competitive kids, helicoptering than their own parents ever did (and still feel guilty). They take up a sport to find some balance in their lives — and get caught up becoming . Extreme foodies start the day with made from the latest expensive seeds and vegan plants from a distant country. Young Millennials, driven to distraction and depression by nonstop, constantly comparative online benchmarking, can’t unglue from . Who can blame them? Their parents are competing over their number of followers and retweets and whether they have succeeded in . Even attempts to slow down and embrace mindfulness have become fraught with ambitious goals, like the gym next door that introduced bro-ga, a competitive form of yoga for men.

London, where I live, is a hub of extremisms of every kind. The pleasant bike lanes that mayors introduced to make cities more humane have morphed in this driven city into “” where lycra-clad bankers from the City are from the day before, complete with iPhone on arm measuring a veritable research-lab-worthy set of metrics. Including sleep, fast becoming the latest of the extremisms, as the its essentialness to…everything: health, sanity, longevity. Go to bed late at your peril.

北京快3At work, extremism and have become a badge of honor. Executives compete with each other, as did the two CEOs sitting behind me on a plane last week, on how many days a year they fly (165 and 214, respectively). The highest-paid work , reversing centuries where it was the poor who worked while the rich rested. Now the poor are unemployed and the rich work their days away. Companies make their  any rights to overtime pay or time off, making illegally extreme hours legal.

Wherever you look, whatever you do, performance has gone extreme, often policed by a tracking app or a competitive peer (sometimes masquerading as a friend). Moderation, in any form, is seen as nothing but amateurism, the habit of a slacker who won’t commit of practice to master something.

I long ago decided to invest in extreme moderation. I do everything with the deliberate intent of finding a balance between two extremes — doing nothing and doing too much. I want to do a reasonable job at the different parts of my life and a stellar job at the balance between all of them.

So many of us say we want balance, but we aren’t extreme enough in our devotion to this ideal. We lean too heavily or for too long on one dimension or another. Much of balance feels like standing on one leg — you need to constantly renegotiate and adapt to small changes.

How do you put balance into practice?

First, we each have to define it for ourselves. I personally like Aristotle’s outline: “something to do, someone to love, and something to hope for.” I divide this into four pillars that should balance each other: brain (knowledge, relevance, professional expertise, lifelong learning); love (relationships, family, community, care); change (openness to self-question, networks, transition skills); and choice (financial flexibility, savings, earning power).

北京快3Come up with your own guiding principle and make your own list of life pillars. Now ask yourself two things:

  1. Review the balance of the past seven years. What ratio of your time did you invest in each?
  2. What balance would you like for the next seven years?

Different phases of life will have very different goals and balances. In my thirties, I spent more time parenting than exercising. In my late fifties, that needs to change. But I don’t need to become a triathlete. Instead, I do some yoga every week and walk the dog daily. I eat well but don’t fuss. I work hard but not overtime. I try to love consciously, every day. To give back and to spend some time helping others. Could I do more? Yes, undoubtedly and in every area.

北京快3There are tens of millions of people who do better at each of these things than I do. But I don’t have to compare myself with them, because I’m in a different competition. And in that arena, I’m one of the best I know. I am an absolute master at moderation. I don’t (usually) brag about it; that’s not part of the moderate’s mindset (and I am Canadian, after all). But I have spent a lifetime honing my daily practice, worshipping at the altar of “good enough.” Today, I am neither superrich nor superfit nor supersuccessful. But I have just enough of each to qualify in my own personal marathon, the race for a balanced life. In the end, maybe this only really matters to me and my dog, who does get a lot of good walks out of it. To me, that’s enough.


Avivah Wittenberg-Cox is CEO of 20-first, one of the world’s leading gender consulting firms, and author of Seven Steps to Leading a Gender-Balanced Business.


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