It never ceases to amaze me how people have such an enduring capacity to ensure their deepest hopes and dreams amount to nothing. Some people call this “growing wise and responsible”. I call it settling for mediocrity.
As children, we all knew how to dream. We would conjure up impressive projections of our future happiness, tied to achieving implausible feats that somehow turned impossible with age.
It seems that part of growing up involves the replacement of wild untamed ambition with the need for responsibility, social restraint and the necessity to conform.
Why? Nobody really knows. I have always assumed that the uniform influence of mainstream media and forced routine are the culprits. You go to nursery, on to primary school, on to high school, off to University, get a job, get married, have kids, retire and then die. This factory line roll-call of events may not sound exciting, but it’s how many individuals feel compelled to live their lives.
Following the conventional journey through life is a safe move, and for some people, it may even be the right move. But mediocrity has never been more guaranteed than when you cancel your craziest ambitions in favour of a path where you know the end destination, and every stop along the way.
How do you know if you’re suffering from a mediocre life crisis? You can start by matching yourself to the symptoms below.
1. You aimlessly meander from one education institute to the next.
Some careers are best served by the western path from high school through to university and hopefully graduation with a degree. This path accumulates all the academic bells and whistles on your CV for the first job interview, in the hope that it will position you above your competition. For the student blessed with clarity and an end goal, it is perfect. Absolutely perfect. But there’s one problem.
Many university students are no closer to understanding what it is that they actually want to do than the next high school dropout. The only difference is a colossal expenditure of time, money and energy to reach that same conclusion.
I am a huge advocate of rebuilding the further education system. I think the biggest problem with university is a social idea that it’s something you do when you’re 20, and feel the benefits of later in life. University should be a means of educating yourself for a clear future that is predetermined and vivid in your mind. If you don’t have that clarity, you shouldn’t be spunking your time up the wall on a future that may not be right for you.
But instead, many students continue to engage in very public Facebook status meltdowns over course assignments and dissertations that contribute to a degree in a field they scarcely even care about. The result? A future tarred in mediocrity.
Don’t bounce from one education institution to the next hoping it will take you somewhere in life. Work out what you want to do, and then prepare accordingly. If this means going to University at 40 instead of 20, congratulations, you’re much more efficient than the fools who had no idea what they were there for – other than the drink and sex.
2. You understand the price of everything, and the value of nothing.
The fact that you’re reading this article now, in front of a computer screen, presumably somewhere comfortable, leads me to believe that you’re probably blessed with relative richness in your life.
In western society, we take so much for granted. We put a price on everyday costs such as food, water, heating, electricity, rent and petrol, but do we stop to consider the value of simply having these commodities in our lives?
No, instead, we choose to dream of further riches. Luxury cars, flash restaurants, mansions by the beach. The list goes on and is riddled by whatever we can’t have. This is a typical trait of the materialist mind, forever seeking new kicks to add artificial value to a life.
When you stop measuring the price of what you don’t have, and start considering the value in what you do have, happiness is almost guaranteed. After all, mediocrity is no more than a failure to appreciate what’s right in front of us, and an inability to reach what is just around the corner.
3. You underestimate what you can achieve with sustained application.
In a cruel twist of fate, humans are terribly prone to overestimating what they can achieve in a short space of time, while critically underestimating what is capable with a few hard months of sustained application.
Take the average weight loss candidate as a perfect example. Fat Mediocre Joe will spend 2 or 3 days eating healthily, exercising regularly and applying himself perfectly for the purpose of losing weight. But after those first few days, the failure to see a visible change in the mirror will cause his motivation to wane. The healthy lifestyle gets confined to the scrapheap and Quick Fixitis claims another casualty.
Subconciously, Fat Mediocre Joe overestimated what he could achieve by doing the right thing for a few days. Seeing no immediate change, he gave up straight away. Yet with sustained application, the results were there for the taking.
We tend to give up on dreams if we don’t see immediate measureable progress. But in reality, we can achieve those dreams much quicker than expected simply by understanding sustained application.
The body will respond to healthy dieting and regular exercise straight away. But just because the progress of healing has been set in motion, that does not mean you will see any results with your naked eye. Understand that on the flip side, those changes tend to snowball and gain momentum. They turn in to titanic forces of change if you provide the sustained application to see them through.
So many of the classic traits of a mind riddled in mediocrity can be traced to under or overestimating our timeframes.
Be realistic about what you can achieve today, and fulfil your expectations. But stay hopelessly optimistic about your ambitions for tomorrow. Sustained application, and regularly meeting your daily targets, will ensure they are perfectly possible far sooner than you imagined.
4. You think it’s too late to change, or too soon for change to matter.
I’m not sure which is worse. The guy who forever delays the changes necessary for following his dreams, or the guy who believes his moment has already passed. It’s never too late to rise above mediocrity.
You may look back on opportunities missed and chances squandered. It’s easy to convince yourself that life is a train, and if you miss it once, you’ve missed it forever. It’s just as easy to spend every day waiting for a train in the hope of an express ticket out of whatever troubles you’re faced with.
In reality, the train is parked outside your front door every day. It’s yours, always has been and always will be. Change is a mysterious process that gravitates towards those who know how to control it.
Anybody can harness the power of change by committing to an idea and prioritising it above all others. It must rank above the present situation, above the quick fix solutions and above the damning influence of other people who inadvertently conspire to drag you down. Commit to change truly and the seed is already sewn.
5. You have no interest in setting yourself new challenges. Comfortable retirement is the plan.
I have always failed to understand the reasoning behind those who work their entire lifetimes in the quest for comfortable retirement. The only thing to look forward to after retirement is sure death.
I also hear tales of fledgling entrepreneurs striving to be retired by 40. Isn’t that a paradox?
To be an entrepreneur requires a great passion for work, and the enjoyment of being immersed in all that you do. I’ve worked for myself since the age of 21, and I plan on doing so until the day I die. Life, to me, would be empty without the challenge of having something to get up and work for.
This is ultimately tied to making the world a better place for those we leave behind. If you work purely to add to your life savings, you must be prepared to waste your most active years on a number that I could type in to a calculator right now and gain the same value from.
Retirement is hugely overrated and I don’t believe for a second that a majority of people are truly seeking retirement, but rather financial security and a “release date” from the corporate prisons they enslaved themselves to. This is a sad fate.
Do you really have to wait for your 65th birthday to finally enjoy a taste of freedom? And if that is your mindset, are you not simply passing through the factory line of expected living milestones like everybody else? In that case, I hate to inform you, but the next milestone is death.
There is an alternative to this life of mediocrity. It involves setting challenges through the eyes of a young child, where no ambition is too wild, and no dream is too farfetched.
Somewhere along the journey of life, most of us reach a fork in the road where we get to choose between pursuing our ambitions or falling in line with the rest of society. Unfortunately, despite knowing and resenting where it leads, most people choose the traffic jam.
Mediocrity makes no sense, but it leaves a clear stretch of fresh air for those who choose to live and think differently.
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