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More is usually better… but only to a point.

Take an example from the book David and Goliath, by Malcolm Gladwell. It is generally assumed that the relationship between class size and academic achievement is linear. In other words, smaller classes lead to better academic achievement for students. It turns out that this is true… but only to a point. If your class gets too far below, say, 18 students, you start to have problems.

A similar U-shaped relationship is seen in the association between income and parenting effectiveness. In general, a higher income leads to more effective parenting. Not having enough money is stressful. The more money you have, the more likely it will be that you have enough money to feed your children, buy them school clothes, and go on a vacation once in a while. But this is true only to a point. Have too much money, and the effect of money on parenting effectiveness can be detrimental. It’s harder to set limits on your children when you actually can afford to buy them that new car, new pony, or new whatever.

What about the relationship between alcohol consumption and health? Same thing. If you drink a few glasses of wine per week, you will tend to live longer. But this is true only to a point. If you start drinking more than 14 alcoholic drinks per week, your life expectancy begins to get shorter.

What about the relationship between anxiety and performance? Same thing. A little anxiety is good for performance. It helps get you going, and helps you focus. But this is true only to a point. Too much anxiety can leave you paralyzed with fear, unable to perform.

Take just about any character trait or situation to the extreme, even ones that you consider ‘purely good,’ and you will find a problem. Think about your own life. Is there anything about your life that is out of balance? Is there an area of your life in which you have ‘too much of a good thing?’ If so, you might want to think about dialing it back, even if it feels strange to do so.

Discussion: What do you think about this U-shaped relationship? Is there anything in your life that you have focused on because it was a good thing, but now it’s out of balance?