Know Thyself — And Nothing In Excess

Inscribed on the temple of Apollo at Delphi”, Greek saying

Long before the Google and Twitter feeds, the Greeks had inscriptions on their Temples giving their citizens sage advice.  I have long appreciated the two-part message of the Apollo Temple, to “know thyself” and “nothing in excess”. They seem like simple, admonishments, however, I think of them as good rules to follow. Know thyself. Many people get into trouble with other people because they do not understand themselves. They have huge blind spots. They consider themselves God’s gift to management, and they leave a trail of bodies behind them, oblivious to the impact they have on others. Just getting a recalcitrant to realize that they have a problem is 80% of the deal. Then they are ready and motivated to do something about it. 

Nothing in excess. Gluttony can take many forms, and moderation is a good antidote to this sin. You can exercise too much, be too perfect, drink too much, or be overly controlled. Most good traits and virtues can be overdone. Stress is a good example. If you are bored, you are not getting enough variety, challenge, and stress in your life. If you are panicked, and dealing with chronic stress that is unrelenting, you are hurting yourself. Your body and mind will pay the price for this unresolved stress response.  You want to have just the right amount of stress to be in the “zone” humming along, spending your days comfortably engaged. 

The stress level diagram below shows the relationship between performance and stress levels. 

The Stress Response Curve – we all need a little stress in our life   

Why is it important to be self-aware and moderate in our habits? Being self-aware means you are more responsible and accountable. You don’t go around blaming others for your problems, and you don’t see yourself as a ‘victim’. Self-awareness is the key to other awareness and stronger connections with others. And moderation is a good virtue to follow. How many steaks do you need in a day? How much do you need to be happy?