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Moderation, a meaningless word

The word moderation is a funny word. I was recently at a seminar where I heard someone use it to describe the changes the NYC public school system should and shouldn't make to the dietary options it presented students. 

"I believe in moderation," the speaker proclaimed. "Sugary snacks and sodas aren't a bad thing, as long as we allow the kids to eat and drink them in moderation. We can't get too extreme."

Most people use the word moderation in a way that makes others feel that it has a set definition. But the challenge with the word is that it doesn't. Moderation is almost always code word for "what I feel is normal." And what "I" feel is normal is greatly influenced by what the current society feels is normal.

Moderation isn't set point. Moderation is this weird middle point that people create in their mind by using two extreme reference points. Here's an example:


Person A feels, based on their experiences, that kids drinking soda every day of the week is extreme. But they also feel that kids who never drink soda, ever, is also extreme. Naturally, their moderation point is going to be "kids should be allowed to drink soda a few times a week."

Person B has had difference life experiences, and thus, has different reference points. These different experiences have led her to feel that drinking soda even a few times a week is extreme. On the flip side, she sees giving kids access to only water as extreme too. Her moderation point might look something like "kids should have access to fresh fruit juices and carbonated natural sweetened fruit sodas."

Both people feel that their version of "normal" is correct based on their reference points. And their reference points have been anchored by their life experiences. Of course both of them are correct, because their reality is their reality.

Saying something like "I believe in moderation" is basically like saying, "I believe in my experiences." Yes, it is true, but it is meaningless because your experiences are all that you know.

Change Agents & Zen Masters

The takeaway for all you Change Agents out there is that the more you create, teach, and help others broaden their experiences, the more likely their reference points will shift. It only takes a few committed people to build momentum that eventually changes what "normal" looks like.

And if someone drops the M-Bomb on you, instead of arguing with them, take a step back and try to understand what their personal reference points are. When you argue with anyone about their reference points, their ego feels that you are literally questioning their experiences. From the point of view of their ego, you might as well be calling them a liar. Don't call people liars.

What's the best way to help someone see something they can't see? Help them experience it. Until they experience it, it isn't real.