As usual, we humans are overdoing it. Or underdoing it. And neither is a good thing. As my NYC-born-and-raised, world-travelling grandmother (she knew a little something about living well wherever she was and up until the week she died in her 80s) told me every chance she got when I was growing up, "Everything in moderation." But for a variety of reasons, our culture is particularly bad at following that age-old advice. (Personally, I'm working on it.)
As we dig deep into February, it's worth thinking about what we might be overdoing—or giving up on too early (for many, this is the time when our New Years resolutions fail). And how to tell the difference.
One way to tell if you are enacting moderate, lasting change is to look at the timeline for your goal. Short-term hard work can be useful: going a little nuts on something (a physical fitness goal, to finish a project) can be a good reason to burn the candle at both ends. But keep in mind that doing something to the extreme should only be done for a short, finite time period. You should know that it has a specific duration (for two weeks, I'm going to work 14 hours a day to finish my thesis/study for that qualifying exam/build that barn). In fact, short-term energy bursts can remind you of what you are capable of, how strong you really are, and get you to the great feeling of finishing a goal. But your goal shouldn't be, say, just working 14 hours a day to 'get ahead' in a general way, or because you think you should just be able to run 15 miles a day at any point. Yes, you can work yourself to death, and many an injury was the result of training too hard. Put limits on your energy bursts.
Another way to tell if you are overdoing something is to check in with pop culture. Are you really gung-ho about a trend? Like, say, eating kale, or drinking fresh juices instead of eating meals? Both of these pop-foods have been touted as a way to improve health quickly and easily. And while they can certainly both have benefits, like all things health-related (except for quitting smoking) they aren't going to have an immediate effect—and both have been found, at obsessional doses, to have negative consequences. But many people think that if some kale is healthy, a glass of kale smoothie every morning is even better; but the key with good nutrition is, of course, balance. Too many kale lovers are eating the stuff (which I'm a huge fan of myself) in place of a variety of other greens and veggies—each of which contains its own special combination of micronutrients, vitamins and minerals.
So, if you are eating trendy (one way to know is if your favorite food appears often on social media sites), cut back to a couple times a week or so and you'll probably be healthier for it.
Finally, is your end goal reasonable and healthy? Moderation will make you feel frustrated and annoyed if your goal is so lofty that its impossible to achieve and also live a healthy life. So check in with where you are trying to go, and make sure it is reasonably achievable in the time you have allotted.
All of the above (not giving yourself enough time, following trends, and setting achievable goals) are meant to fight the "boom and bust" cycle that many of us get caught up in when it comes to goals. Striving too hard and then failing can really pummell your self-esteem, which you need to keep high—because how you feel about yourself and your ability to set and reach a goal will also impact how successful you will be with future goals. Setting a few, more reachable goals—with a longer timeline—will set you up for success and reduce how often you give up on them. You know, moderation.