Balance: The Virtue of Moderation
"If one oversteps the bounds of moderation, the greatest pleasures cease to please." - Epictetus
In our last philosophy series article, we discussed how to implement the virtue of Wonder into our lives by asking great questions. This week, we are going to discuss Balance, the second virtue Barb Stegemann discusses in her self-published book “The 7 Virtues of a Philosopher Queen.”
Balance in life is easier said than done – we all live stressful lives and seeking out small pleasures can make us feel better. There’s nothing wrong with getting a quick dopamine boost. However, overindulgence is an easy trap to fall into if we’re not careful. For example: shopping, using social media, and eating out are all little pleasures that are fine in moderation, but when done too often can result in overindulgence. In excess, it won’t provide happiness. The key is to live with balance to achieve purpose and true joy.
Ancient Greek philosopher Plato believed that if you pursue pleasure with the belief that it will bring you happiness, it would destroy you. So, how do we differentiate between happiness and pleasure? And how do we balance them?
There are only four things that can make you happy:
- Passion: A love for your work and/or studies.
- Support: A strong network of friends and family who support and believe in you.
- Volunteering: This is the quickest way to achieve selflessness, which is when we are truly happy. In philosophy, we must remove the ego in our learning if we are to become truly enlightened. Volunteering is the best way to forget about yourself and to genuinely think of others.
- Modesty: Forget your ego and focus upon the greater good - take nothing personally. Only this way are we able to make change.
Now, this is not to say we can’t enjoy pleasures — we work hard and deserve to enjoy things such as the occasional dinner at a fine restaurant — but these things cannot make us happy. Indulging in superficial pleasures too often will ultimately do more harm than good. When we are convinced that pleasures will make us happy, we begin the endless cycle of chasing the next fix.
So, the key to achieving balance is: remembering that things cannot in of themselves make us happy. They can help us achieve a state of pleasure, but nothing more.
A Philosopher Queen is rational under any circumstances. Therefore, she must understand that instant gratification won’t really gratify her or make her happy. We should instead make more room for the things that truly make us happy in life – work, studies, friends, family, volunteering, focusing on the greater good – instead of cheap thrills.
If you read the list above and thought to yourself, “These things don’t make me happy”, it would be worthwhile to reexamine your life and restructure it in a way that prioritizes our list of what makes us truly happy.
Do I love my work or studies?
Do I surround myself with a strong network of friends or family who support me?
Am I volunteering and giving back to my community?
Am I able to let go and not worry what people think of me?
These are the keys to a good and balanced life. Prioritize them and your life will be better. This way, you’ll have a good reason to delay the need for instant gratification and focus on what truly matters.