Benjamin Franklin's Virtues Week 8: Moderation

This is the eight in a series of articles about Benjamin Franklin's Virtues:


Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.

We’ve all had that experience of a new relationship. In the beginning, you can’t keep your hands off each other, but as time passes, soon you grow listless and bored as the electricity begins to fizzle out of the physical side of the relationship, and you realize there isn't much more there.

Or a new restaurant opens in your neighborhood, and you eat there constantly in the beginning.  It's not long before you begin tiring of it, and you start looking for other places to eat again.

Or you go on vacation to a beautifully breathtaking place, and for the first few days, you’re absolutely awed by the scenery. But by the time you leave a couple weeks later, you’ve gotten used to it.

We're all about finding new forms of stimulation, and we think the more we get the better off we are.  But in truth, we quickly we get used to things, and since we have a tendency to overdo everything, we quickly become numb to the things that once gave us so much pleasure.

We’re wired that more is better. We want more fun. More sex. More beer. More food. More money. More recreation.  More stuff. But the more we get of those things, the less we seem to enjoy them, and the less satisfied we are.  We all know somebody that seems to have it all, and yet, they don't seem happy.  How could that possibly be, you wonder.  You think if you had all the things they did, you could certainly find happiness--right?

That’s because the secret to fulfillment isn’t excess—it’s moderation.

This week, take a break from seeking new stimulation, and reconnect with the things around you that you’ve grown numb to. Notch things down a little bit, and learn to live in the moment. Appreciate the night sky. Stop wolfing down your food, and try and appreciate the flavors and textures. Turn off the television, and fall into a novel. Rediscover an old CD you haven’t listened to for a long time. Go outside, without your iPod, and enjoy the simple pleasures of the natural world around you.

We’re often victims of too much stimulation, and we get little enjoyment out of the things that should give us the most pleasure. Take a fast from stimulation—reserve those things you enjoy the most as rewards, and you’ll get more enjoyment out of them. You’ll find the anticipation of that treat is almost as good as the treat itself.

This is one of a series of Wednesday postings that examine the 13 Virtues Benjamin Franklin believed necessary to achieve moral perfection. You can find all the related articles by searching the blog under the “Franklin’s Virtues” label.

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