Just as big is not always beautiful, we can have too much of a good thing. The most obvious thing is food, an excess of which can make us fat.
Why is this so? It is because of an inverted-U curve relationship between food consumption and health. Many things in life follow the inverted-U curve relationship. Productivity and amount of things on To Do List is another.
Inverted-U curves have four part:
- Stage 1, where the curve is linear. More food will lead to better absorption of nutrients and hence a rosier cheek.
- Stage 2, where “the initial linear relation has flagged.” This is the area of diminishing marginal returns.
- Stage 3, where extra resources have no effect on the outcome.
- Stage 4, in which more resources are counterproductive. The more you eat, the rounder your cheek.
This is what Gladwell wrote in his book David and Goliath "We take a term in house construction—footing—to label the first stage“and then use the mnemonic ‘footing, flagging, flat, and falling.’”
Besides food, there are other tangible things, such as information and money, that can also have an adverse impact on our quality of life in excess.
It may sound counter intuitive. But having too much money can be an ill. So how much is enough? A study from Princeton hangs a price tag on that happiness: $75,000. That is the annual household income that gives you the most joy for your buck. People with incomes below that magic number report less happiness, overall, than those at or above it.
Having too much money re-draws boundaries. And this heralds uncharted territories. Rags-to-riches parents do not have it easy to bring up their children in the same values that made them successful.
For many aspiring-to-be-rich, as they climb up each rung, they will want more. More money to buy a bigger house or car to confer a higher social status. More money to sate yet another craving for the latest in thing,
Inability to achieve these goals, is often equated to low self-worth. This in turn, makes them want even more what they don't—or can't—have. The dangers of abundance are very real.
So what is the best thing for us to do? As the playwright Plautus put it: "In everything the middle course is best: All things in excess bring trouble to men." Moderation is the key.
That is food for thought for this week.