For some Mediocrity is a fate worse than death
One of the biggest fears for high achievers is falling down into mediocrity. And one of the biggest causes of life going wrong (disease, depression, addiction) is remaining in mediocrity.
There is a big misconception when it comes to mediocrity. It has become a very judgmental word. It is laced with notions of superiority and inferiority. It is hierarchical. We have a judgement in society about mediocrity. It is bad. It is bad to be ordinary. Mediocrity is a fate worse than death.
I myself spent a lot of time like this. I had to be great in life. For a lot of the time I whipped myself. I didn’t allow myself to rest, to take breaks. On the weekends I would feel guilty watching TV. When I wasn’t working or striving towards my goals, I judged myself as lazy. The only way for it be ok to do nothing was illness (and I’m sure my body got a flu to force me to feel ok to relax).
I had a lot of self resentment and frustration, not much self love. When I accomplished my goals there wasn’t much room for celebration. It would be “great, what’s next”. Achieving great things was an expectation. When I got my First Class degree in Electronic Engineering, I was more focused on the fact that I had just scraped the grade rather than the fact that I had gotten a first class. It didn’t feel like an achievement.
The fear of mediocrity is one of the biggest drivers for the successful but it has its limits
Of course there is a positive in everything. A fear of mediocrity drives us to be successful, it creates great work, but at the same time it holds us back. It creates needless stress. It makes it difficult to deal with failure.
When I failed I would feel ashamed and would feel a need to hide. It took me a long time to get over failure. I think if I didn’t have a fear of being mediocre, I would have taken more risks and gotten over certain failures faster. I would (ironically) have been more successful.
The fear of mediocrity is one of those success drivers but, and I’ve found this with many of my clients, it has a limit. Soon the soul is exhausted with the constant running. The chasing for greatness, for approval, becomes tiresome. The energy of youth, the ability to drive through results diminishes with age. Not because of age paradoxically, but because this way of operating is not sustainable, it is not nourishing to the soul. The soul starts to see through the illusion of success and knows that something is off. What got you to this level of success won’t get you any further. This is good news because the way forward becomes easier when you are not driven by the fear.
It is time to change the way we view mediocrity. It is remaining in the comfort zone when you know deep down you want to achieve more. It is not moving forward when it is time to. The antidote to mediocrity is not beating oneself up. It is allowing one’s natural passion and enthusiasm in life to shine through. Tapping into the human spirit. Greatness can be achieved by natural enthusiasm, a big vision and small steps. It is often trying to accomplish too much in too short a period of time, unrealistic expectations, that leads to discontentment.
The way out of mediocrity is to make peace with it. Be OK with it. We all have a part of ourselves that is content to be mediocre. That is OK. Mediocrity has nothing to do with ability. It is a choice point. But we need to see that there is a real choice to remain mediocre or to be given by the human spirit. When there is a real choice and the absence of judgement, it is easy to decide what to do. You may see it’s fine to be in the comfort zone and then you’ll move on when you genuinely want to. When you stop punishing yourself for being mediocre. You can then rise out of mediocrity and fly.