Tapping into Virtue
Modern people aren’t the first ones to wrestle with passion and stimulation. In antiquity, great thinkers including Aristotle and Confucius sought to define the “Good life.” Four fundamental virtues arose in ancient Greece, Rome, India, and China: justice, courage, wisdom, and moderation.
While these four virtues are interconnected, the solution to passion, excitement, and stimulation is moderation.
The virtue of moderation means doing nothing in excess; nothing carried to extremes; nothing pushed so far it becomes harmful to ourselves or others. In Buddhism, this is called the Middle Way.
In the Middle Way, we aren’t pulled by attraction or pushed by aversion. We avoid excessiveness and scarcity. I call it the Center.
Staying in the Middle
Take a current project you’re working on. If this project is new, you may feel passion or excitement. You might stay up late and get up early to work on it.
Eventually, however, you hit a wall. Your momentum comes to a halt. Apathy sets in. You get discouraged, which leads to procrastination and distraction to avoid boredom.
Visualize a continuum with boredom/laziness at the far left and passion/ excitement at the far right. What’s in the middle?
Moderation and steadiness is the anecdote to passion. Moderation allows you to walk your path each day without expecting a “high” to keep you going.
The goal isn’t passion or excitement; it’s neutrality. When you’re neutral, you’re calm, alert, and clear. From this space, slowly and incrementally, you can achieve anything. You can realize your potential. I know, it’s not sexy. But it works. And it’s sustainable throughout the course of your life.
Accomplishing More by Doing Less
Did you ever hear you should give 110% effort? This is a harmful idea. You can’t give 110% without depleting yourself. It’s unsustainable.
In Qigong, an ancient system for cultivating energy in the body, they teach the principle of moderation. You’re instructed to do exercises at 70% of your capacity. Why? Because trying too hard creates internal tension. Exercising at 70% enables you to focus and make deliberate movements without tensing your muscles.
This principle enables Qigong practitioners to maintain their health into old age without the burnout, disease, or pain we associate with old age.
For inspiration, check out this two-minute video of a 118-year-old grandmaster performing an internal martial art.
How can you apply the principle of moderation to your life, work, and relationships right now?