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I remember one day, I was relaxing and watching basketball. During one of the commercial breaks, I noticed something interesting: Most of the commercials presented extreme messages.

To the Extreme

For example, I watched a commercial for the Lowes hardware store. The first part of the commercial showed a guy trying to install a ceiling fan. The installation didn’t go too well, and the fan fell down and broke his coffee table. On his next try, the fan flew out the window. (Is that even possible?) The commercial ended with the Lowes slogan: Never stop improving.

Never stop improving?

The next commercial was for Mazda automobiles. The focus of the commercial was on the safety of the cars. Mazda had done some cutting edge research that made it more likely you would survive a car accident. The commercial ended with this message: When it comes to safety, you can never go too far.

You can never go too far?

The Problem With Extremes

In general, I am a fan of home improvement and automobile safety. However, I think that good things can become a problem when taken to the extreme. For example, focusing on improvement is good, but if we always strive for improvement, it can be difficult to accept ourselves as is, including our imperfections and flaws. Focusing on safety is good, but if we always focus on safety, we could become anxious, or hold back from taking a risk.

To Gain Balance, Explore the Opposite

To move toward balance, it can be helpful to explore the opposite.

Here is an exercise to try: Think about a part of your personality that is a big part of who you are. Another way to think about this is to identify something that is really important to you. Or think about what you spend most of your time or money doing. What does this say about the type of person you are?

Once you have identified a part of yourself that is dominant, think of its opposite. For example, if the dominant part of you is the hard-driving successful businesswoman, the opposite might be a carefree relaxed person. If the dominant part of you is the life of the party, the opposite might be a person focused on quiet introspection.

For me, a dominant part of my personality is the hard-driving, always improving, worker. I’m usually focused on producing, writing, publishing, and getting better at CrossFit. And the opposite of that is a relaxed, carefree person who is happy right where he is at, without a need to change anything.

Once you have identified a dominant part of yourself and its opposite, the next task is to come up with an activity for yourself that would focus your energies on the opposite part. Maybe the activity is to spend a day getting pampered at the spa. Or perhaps the activity is to go out to a bar, strike up a conversation, and get one phone number. Maybe the activity is to spend one hour cleaning and organizing your house. It all depends on you.

Take Home Message: Even good things can become detrimental when they are out of balance. By exploring what it would be like to focus on the opposite, you have a better chance of living a full, abundant life.

What is one aspect of your personality that usually dominates? What is the opposite of that? What is one activity you might try to practice the opposite?

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