Diminishing Returns Should Spur You into Action

Diminishing Returns Should Spur You into Action


recovering addict exercising

“How can diminishing returns motivate me to take action?”

I have been noticing a theme lately regarding diminishing returns. It seems that anyone who is willing to make a consistent effort at something–even if it is half-hearted–ends up reaping ninety percent of the benefits. At first, this sounds contradictory to what we hear all the time: that producing anything of real value in our lives takes real effort. But the key thing that I’ve been noticing is that it is consistent effort–not tremendous effort–that is getting rewarded.

An Example of Diminishing Returns in My Life

Over the last two years, I’ve been slowly becoming an avid jogger. After recently transitioning from jogging four miles to jogging six miles, I asked myself: “Where should I be going with all this?” In other words, I wanted to know how far I should be jogging (should I shoot for eight miles?), or whether or not I should aim to run the same distance faster? Or perhaps, instead of jogging three times a week, I should be striving to jog everyday. So I attempted to do some research to find out what my jogging plan should be. It turns out that my question really isn’t specific enough, because there are a number of goals that joggers might have (such as losing weight, or training for a marathon, or simply to stay active, etc.). But what I really found out was this: I’m already “going the distance,” so to speak. People who jog ten miles every day are undoubtedly in great shape. Because of diminishing returns, however, those same people could be receiving 90 percent of those health benefits by jogging only half as much. Use this to your advantage by realizing that a consistent but modest effort (such as jogging or walking 3 miles every other day) will pay off almost as well as the fanatic who goes all-out.

The Importance of Consistency

So what should we do, and how should we live? According to the law of diminishing returns, we need to just get out there and do it. The energy that we use to contemplate all the what-if scenarios as a procrastination technique is just ridiculous. Every moment that we spend in this fruitless analysis is wasted time and energy. Therefore, we should strive for a balance in our lives, especially when it comes to things such as exercise or nutrition. This means setting up a simple system of priorities and then making some good habits based on those priorities. You don’t have to be a marathon runner to enjoy the benefits of jogging, nor do you have to be an absolute stickler when it comes to eating healthy. It is the consistency of our efforts–not the intensity of them–that rewards us. We might get stuck in the trap of comparing ourselves to others, saying things like “I’ll never be able to get into that good of shape, so why try at all?” When self-talk like this gets us down, we need to remember the law of diminishing returns, and allow it to motivate us towards taking action. We don’t need to put forth a monumental effort to reap great rewards. Consistency is key. Start a new healthy habit today!

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