When I think about the differences between my Grandmother’s generation and those that have followed, I can’t help but reflect on the habit of moderation she had engrained within. She grew up during the great depression, “going without” was a way of life that she learned as a child. As a result, she truly appreciated the small things in life. Above and beyond that, my Grandmother remained rather reserved as a consumer throughout her life.
But now things are rather different. Even when we’re struggling to make ends meet, gluttony seems to be all around us. Underpriced crap is available for purchase everywhere we go. There’s always a reason to either reward yourself or pacify your pain. You know what I’m talking about. Those times you have a bad day and, therefore, deserve to go shopping. Or those days you’ve been “good” and deserve a big piece of cake to unwind. There’s always a reason, an excuse to give into your emotions and fulfill your cravings.
I believe that this attitude is part of the reason we’re raising a generation of children that has a lower of life expectancy than their parents (for the first time since the industrial revolution). It is a sad result of an unhealthy, consumptive lifestyle driven by greed, materialism and, dare I say, a false belief that money does buy happiness. It seems we’ve been so brainwashed as to think that consumerism is the essence of living, that cutting our lives short with over-indulgence is the height of being.
But nothing could be further from the truth. Why? Because these are hollow moments that do not “fill your cup.” They do not add meaning to our lives or satiate our appetite for deeper connection with one-another. Consumerism offers temporary, fleeting moments of elation that come with consequences that are felt over time. Consequences like ill health, debt, fatigue, etc. that often lead to an increased yearning for more, more, more, more…for one can never get enough of these short-lived wins.
I’ve had to learn the hard way that just because you can doesn’t mean you must. That exercising my willpower and saying no to over-indulgence is more rewarding than constantly giving in to the feeling of want. And as I reflect on the holidays, I can’t help but feel pained by the unnecessary excess that could be eliminated if we all practiced a little more moderation. So how does one create a habit of moderation?
Creating a habit of moderation is largely about re-wiring some of our perceptions and re-framing our relationship with things (this could be material goods, food, money, etc.). We’ve been trained to indulge, to give into our every whim and to let our emotions rule our decisions (to be fair, making emotional decisions comes easily, naturally even). Indulgence, superficiality and materialism are not the end all, be all.
Our lives are filled with opportunities to learn how to practice moderation. Like living with less because of a declining income. Changing your eating to deal with a health issue. Shifting careers because your job’s been outsourced. Consider reframing your mindset to celebrate these challenges as opportunities to learn, grow, and connect with your deeper purpose and passions in life.
The first step in creating a habit of moderation is reconnecting with that which is truly important to you. It isn’t about money, fancy cars, big screen TV’s, dark chocolate decadence cake, or truffle french fries. No one else can tell you what you value; you have to discover that through a continuous practice of self-reflection and awareness. And, you have to consciously draw on that for which you truly care and deeply value in your day-to-day, as you’re making decisions about what to do or not to do.
This past year I’ve given up things I never thought myself capable of; made sacrifices I never imagined necessary. And when I talk with colleagues about the changes I’ve made, many jest with disbelief, “I’d rather die.” I’ve been that person. And I feel bad for people with such sentiments because I’ve come to believe that creating a habit of moderation is deeply fulfilling. Throughout this process, I’ve developed more self-confidence and satisfaction than I ever had from over-indulging in my wants.
You don’t need to wait for a problem to creep its way into your life to create a habit of moderation. Start by reconnecting with your deeper purpose in life. Then, reevaluate the decisions you typically make without much thought and consider, is this really necessary? Will this help me fulfill my life’s purpose? Is there something deeper that’s bothering me that I ought to deal with more directly? Creating a habit of moderation is a great way to practice finding the joy in the little things, so that in the end we feel as though we need less anyway.