I initially started this post by writing that I wasn’t afraid of many things, but then I began to list them in my mind and it turns out I’m a phobiac (I made that word up to mean “one having many phobias” or “a wimp”). Some of my many fears are listed below for your entertainment:
I’m sure there are more but I want to save some face. In spite of these, there is one thing I fear more than any of the above, my greatest fear: mediocrity. I fear being “ordinary.” I often get this sinking feeling that I will one day look back on my life and say “I could have done more with what I had.” Now, before you refer me to Dr. Phil for some confidence-counseling, rest assured that this fear also has a positive outcome — it has driven me from a segmented, incongruent life to a more purpose-driven and authentic life. I have fought the fear and landed in a better place. Yet mediocrity still haunts me on an almost-daily basis. I vacillate between feeling like I am living up to my potential and feeling like a bum. The thing is, I often feel more like the latter than the former. In other words, I spend a great deal of my days feeling like a giant bum (I’m leaving the door wide open for jokes and one-liners in the comments). Several years ago it occurred to me that the thing that separates those who do great things from those who don’t is their power to fight mediocrity and rise above it, and I have found a proven way to do this, to fight the “ordinary.”
Take That, Ordinary!
Mediocrity is the state of being “neither good nor bad” or “of moderate quality, inferior.” It has a close cousin called “status quo.” We become medicore when we fit a standard of some sort and do neither good things nor bad. Intuitively, then, the way to combat this feeling is to live on the extremes of the continuum; that is, to be either really excellent or really crappy. Even with the latter you can guarantee that you aren’t mediocre.
I’ll save “10 Steps to a Crappy Life” for another post. To be really excellent, though, takes one simple thing that you can begin doing NOW. It is to be who you are. Those who conform to who they think they should be may never rise above the standard. But those who take a moment to ask themselves “who am I” and “what do I do well, better than almost anyone I know” are those who will figure out a way to be better than mediocre. Ask yourself the following:
Your answers to the questions above will yield great insights into your “silver bullets” for combatting mediocrity.
Five Simpler Ways to Fight Mediocrity
For those of you who are a bit less reflective, below are five simple things you could do now that are above-the-status quo activities — things that the general public probably doesn’t do — that will make you feel like you are living a more productive life:
1. Read the news. Take 10 minutes to read NPR.org or some other news channel you trust, searching for interesting articles that will help you be more informed.
2. Exercise. Drop to the floor and knock out 10 pushups right now…I guarantee that will put you 10 pushups ahead of most Americans, let alone the guy in the cubicle next door.
3. Write a 300-word progress report. Identify the things you are doing well and the things you could work on. Also include goals you would like to achieve and how you plan to get there. Or simply write what you would do with your life if money was no object. This won’t take as long as you think. (This post is inching past 661 words as we speak and it has taken less than 20 minutes to draft.)
4. Thank someone for their contribution to your life. Gratitude is an oft-neglected principle in society that mediocre people take for granted. By thanking someone for something they’ve done you are instantly rising above the standard that we often live by.
5. Reset your day. In an earlier post, I suggested taking a break around 11am and 2:30pm to reset your energy and your to-do list. Walk around the office, stretch, grab some water, then set some short-term goals to accomplish before leaving the office. Unlike most people who waste away the waning hours of the day on ESPN.com or my blog, you will immediately infuse your life with a jolt of productivity and be living well above ordinary.
What other ways have you found to fend off mediocrity? Share your thoughts in the comments and fight the good fight!
Hi! I'm Dustin.
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