Whenever I hear the phrase “that’s not realistic,” I roll my eyes. Mainstream opinion gets mainstream results, and another way to say that is, no results. Change in its nature is radical, not moderate. Moderation is the way to keep from rocking the boat. Moderation is maintenance. Unless you want to maintain what you have right now, what good is moderation going to do you?
Having a baby. Where is the moderation in “zero to new human in nine months”? Labor, delivery, sleepless nights?
Remodeling a house. Do you really want to go the moderate, incremental route?
House-training a pet. Stop thinking outside the box!
When we’re sure about exactly what we want, it’s obvious that we’d rather get it done and get our results quickly. Waiting at the DMV - get it done and get out of there. The dentist. Again, please let’s just get this done so I no longer have five instruments and a fist crammed into my mouth. Travel. Four hours in an airport or stuck on the freeway is clearly not the same as a four-hour visit to a monument or landmark.
When we genuinely want change, we’ll do it as quickly as we can. As long as we understand what to do, nothing will stop us.
See this in action every time a new movie, game, or consumer product comes out and the mega-fans camp out overnight in the parking lot. Watch how long people will hold still for tattoo artwork. Desire is powerful. We’ve all felt this overwhelming desire for something, at least once in our lives. When we want it badly enough, whatever it is, we will go after it. We will persevere until we’ve got it.
Why can’t we seem to harness this power of desire for all our goals?
It’s always going to be either one of two things. Either we don’t know exactly how to do it, or we don’t really want it.
When there’s a situational obstacle, that falls under knowledge. We don’t know how to continue to go after the goal when something gets in the way. How do I do it when my schedule has changed? How do I do it when my location has changed? How do I do it when I suddenly have more demands on my time? How do I do it when the rules have changed? Nothing about the desirability of the goal itself has changed - it’s simply an unforeseen detour that temporarily blocks our path and obscures the view.
Persistence will eventually find a way around every obstacle. Asking for help is one form of persistence. Simply find someone who has the results you want, and ask, “How did you do it? What’s your secret?”
This is where the paradox comes in.
Most of us actually do know everything we need to know in order to get what we want. We just aren’t willing to do anything unless it’s “moderate.” We don’t want to have to concentrate, or focus, or stop doing other things we like doing, even temporarily. We don’t want to suffer. I CAN’T DEPRIVE MYSELF.
How can you deprive yourself of your goal?
Why would you do that to yourself?
The truth is, we like our comforts more than we like our goals.
We’ll give all our focus and attention, all our time, all our desire and all our money to certain treasured goals. A phone upgrade! A signature beverage at least once a day! Pets ‘n’ vets, that is, emergency veterinary expenses. A trip, a cable package. Some things our kids begged for, but not others. There are at least a few special things that we will never cut from our budgets or our schedules under any circumstances.
Where are the areas we’ll always quit on? Where are the areas where we insist on moderation and nothing more? Where are the areas where we allow for the most exceptions?
Cleaning the garage, perhaps?
Turning in overdue library books?
Tolerating chronic issues like neck pain or sleep deprivation?
Everyone knows at least one person who is one semester or one term away from a college degree. Only a little over half of college students graduate within six years. Completion rates seem to be a bit higher for master’s programs, but fall back to a little over half for doctorates. One message we can take from this is that we should forgive ourselves for not going farther than we did. There’s another message we could take away, though. Those completion rates could jump much higher. What if everyone with only one term to go somehow found a way to finish?
The two most commonly procrastinated tasks are planning for retirement and dealing with health issues, the latter of which is mostly a euphemism for burning off excess body fat. Fully 70% of Americans over age 20 are overweight now. We’ve collectively shrugged and decided that 25 pounds overweight is now dangerously thin. Let’s not even talk about our savings habits. About half of American households have no retirement savings at all. Nearly two-thirds say they couldn’t handle an emergency expenditure of $1000. This is what all our talk of moderation gets us.
MODERATION IS FRUSTRATION
What are we moderating? What are we maintaining? At least we’re all in it together, but what is it that we’ve collectively agreed to tolerate? Constant financial dread, chronic low energy, and poor body image. That’s what moderation gets us.
Radical change is possible, and it’s not even unimaginable, much less unrealistic. People clean out their garages over a weekend, and it happens all the time! That delayed college degree could be completed in three months. It’s possible to lose a hundred pounds in a year, or pay off tens of thousands of dollars in debt. It’s even possible to retire in eleven years (or fewer), and there are many examples of that as well. Radical change is simply the “rip off the bandage” method. Decide that you want it, make a plan, and then launch. Do it as quickly as possible and get it over with. Moderation is maintenance, and you should only maintain the results you want to keep. Radical change is what gets things done.
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.