You’ve probably heard about the Law of Diminishing Returns, which refers to the relationship between inputs and outputs. Adding inputs increases outputs, but at a certain point shoveling in more inputs results in smaller and smaller growth in outputs.
It makes a lot of sense, doesn’t it? We all know there are times when it’s best to cut your losses, stop banging your head against the wall, stop mixing metaphors and get on with your life.
But then again, you’re probably equally familiar with the phrase, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.”
This makes a lot of sense, too. We know that success doesn’t come easily, and anything worth having is worth fighting for, at least a little bit.
So here’s my problem – the next time I hit a rough patch, I want to know how I’m supposed to tell if I’ve hit the point of diminishing returns and should move on, or if this is when I should double down on my efforts.
My instinct is usually to keep at it, and I know that’s not always a good idea. If there were a Society Against Cruelty to Dead Horses I’d probably be in big trouble with them for my incessant flogging away at things more suited for the glue factory than the races.
Psychologists comparing the health of those who stick with tough goals and those who don’t came up with results that aren’t encouraging for the persistent. It seems people who don’t give up tend to have higher levels of CRP, a protein linked to bodily inflammation, diabetes and heart disease.
You can read the article here.
But what about those stories of people facing impossible odds and conquering them, from mountain climbers crawling for miles with broken legs to patients outlasting a virtually terminal diagnosis?
They’re true, too, and they can help us deal with our challenges, both large and small. The image of the Olympic athlete Derek Redmond hobbling his way to the finish line of the 1992 Olympic Summer Games with a torn hamstring is hard to forget. Even though he could no longer win, he had to finish the race and, with the help of his father, he did.
That’s a beautiful thing, and I think it says something essential about what it means to be human.
What do you think? How do you figure out when you’ve hit the point of diminishing returns, and how do you decide to go for gold, in terms of the human spirit?
by Danielle Dresden