“Sow a thought, reap an action; sow an action, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny.” (Stephen Covey, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People)
This is a great quote because it seems to encapsulate Covey’s message of his book so well. Habits are the cornerstone of self-discipline, and self-discipline is the cornerstone of being able to achieve goals and accomplish things in life. Moderation is necessary to maintain the pace and steam you need to follow through and get things done. In Linda Kavelin Popov’s book Family Virtues Guide, born out of her Virtues Project, she says that in order to be steadfast, you need to find and keep a pace you can maintain.
It is incumbent upon them who are in authority to exercise moderation in all things. Whatsoever passeth beyond the limits of moderation will cease to exert a beneficial influence. (Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha’u’llah)
Baha’u’llah says we should not read the writings until exhaustion, but our goal should be to uplift our spirit.: “Recite ye the verses of God every morn and eventide. Whoso faileth to recite them hath not been faithful to the Covenant of God and His Testament, and whoso turneth away from these holy verses in this Day is of those who throughout eternity have turned away from God. Fear ye God, O My servants, one and all. Pride not yourselves on much reading of the verses or on a multitude of pious acts by night and day; for were a man to read a single verse with joy and radiance it would be better for him than to read with lassitude all the Holy Books of God, the Help in Peril, the Self-Subsisting. Read ye the sacred verses in such measure that ye be not overcome by languor and despondency. Lay not upon your souls that which will weary them and weigh them down, but rather what will lighten and uplift them, so that they may soar on the wings of the Divine verses towards the Dawning-place of His manifest signs; this will draw you nearer to God, did ye but comprehend.” (The Kitáb-i-Aqdas)
I believe that this principle “Lay not upon your souls that which will weary them and weigh them down, but rather what will lighten and uplift them”, is applicable to all other endeavours of life. At least those endeavours, where we have the choice to stop when we get tired. An example is exercise. Exercise is so important, but in order to get into the habit of exercising, I believe you should start where you are at, go at a speed and duration you can maintain, and not overdo it, similar to the 1% more blog I wrote. I think if exercising is done right, after you make it a regular habit, you end up having more energy for other things in life as compared to before you were exercising regularly. In other words, moderation in exercising lifts up your spirit instead of weighing it down.
As Baha’u’llah made reference to above, too much of a good thing is a bad thing. I think this is true for most, perhaps all things. Many addictions are basically too much of a good thing, like eating, having sex (at present an ongoing requirement for the procreation thing), working, or alcohol and cannabis (for those who are not restrained in partaking by beliefs or religion). A person can habituate themselves to a drug, a little bit at a time, to the point where they can’t live without their regular hit, as Abdu’l-Baha explains below.
“Perhaps someone will say that, since the capacity and worthiness of men differ, therefore, the difference of capacity certainly causes the difference of characters. But this is not so, for capacity is of two kinds: natural capacity and acquired capacity. The first, which is the creation of God, is purely good—in the creation of God there is no evil; but the acquired capacity has become the cause of the appearance of evil. For example, God has created all men in such a manner and has given them such a constitution and such capacities that they are benefited by sugar and honey and harmed and destroyed by poison. This nature and constitution is innate, and God has given it equally to all mankind. But man begins little by little to accustom himself to poison by taking a small quantity each day, and gradually increasing it, until he reaches such a point that he cannot live without a gram of opium every day. The natural capacities are thus completely perverted. Observe how much the natural capacity and constitution can be changed until by different habits and training they become entirely perverted. One does not criticize vicious people because of their innate capacities and nature, but rather for their acquired capacities and nature.” (Some Answered Questions).
If a person has an acquired “perverted” character, finding moderation may be very difficult, because their true character is hidden. For different reasons, people dealing with great stress, challenges, or illness may not easily find moderation. A clinically depressed person is likely always tired or exhausted. My advice to stop when they are tired won’t work – they are always tired!! Just getting started doing something takes all their might! In this case, a depressed person has to make the effort, but also acknowledge their capacities are severely limited and can’t do what they could do when they weren’t depressed. Medication may be necessary to give them the extra energy need to get started on doing positive things for themselves and get them on a positive momentum out of depression.
People who suffer from anxiety might likely have difficulty even realizing when they are tired or have overdone something, since the anxiety gives them this constant nervous energy most or all the time. A person with bipolar disorder has a mixture of the two – depression at one time and high energy or euphoria at another time. People whose lives are incapacitated or out of control with these disorders need to see a mental health professional, and could very well benefit from medication, if prescribed by the psychiatrist or doctor.
The Baha’i standards are very high and can be very different from the social environment we are in or come from. Living one day at a time, and small steps for small feet, I have found to be required for me to maintain a sane, orderly progression towards these high standards Baha’is are expected to live up to.
Moderation is not a static thing, but dynamic and what it looks like changes over time. It is a complex thing, and achieving moderation is dependent on both internal, personal, social and environmental factors. Until our mid-twenties, many or most young people spend a lot of time studying, socializing and in extra-curricular activities like sports or music, and working little or not at all. As a person gets married and has children and a career, these new areas of their lives would normally take up a lot or most of their energy and time. Out of necessity, priorities, time and energy constraints, they would likely have to cut down on the amount of studying, socializing, sports, music and other interests they are involved in.
What moderation looks like also differs from one individual to the next, depending on the person’s personality, strenghts and weaknesses, upbringing, interests, priorities, values and beliefs. What moderation looks like also can change due to unforeseen, unwanted or unplanned events such as illness, accidents, natural disasters, unemployment, pregnancy, divorce, destructive relationships, bullying and so on.
Stephen Covey, in his book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, he says to order your “to-do” list on Sundays, according to your “roles” in life. So for example, a man’s roles might be: supervisor at work, father, son, brother, husband, community member, neighbour, and so on. Listing what your roles in life is helpful, so you make sure you aren’t putting all your energy and time into one or two areas, like work, and neglecting other important areas of your life, like your family.
Another way is to list areas of your life that you are involved in or responsible for, and then reflect on if you are practicing moderation in these areas, or overdoing some areas and neglecting other areas. Below are some possible areas your life could have:
- reading scripture
- self improvement
- physical health: nutrition, exercise, enough sleep, relaxation.
- knowing yourself and bringing yourself to account.
- mental health: purpose in life, meaning, therapy, ideas on this website, cognitive behaviour therapy, mindfulness.
- morality and staying clean, free from addictions.
Consulting with others, friends, family or experts, is a great tool for figuring out personal challenges, such as achieving moderation in life. You can also “consult” my blogs on making decisions and making decisions with prayers.