It’s everyone – including you. But not for the reasons you think.
Mediocrity is associated with a small bank account, a flabby stomach, and an unhappy marriage. It is the embodiment of an old, paint-chipped car. But the truth to mediocrity lies deeper than what’s on the surface.
You can be poor and exceptional. You can be out of shape and extraordinary.
The difference between those who are successful and those who aren’t isn’t defined by a monetary figure, body fat percentage, or years of “happy” marriage. It is defined by fulfillment. In your ability to live a meaningful life. Read any well-known biography and witness it for yourself. Sometimes they had money, recognition, and power, sometimes they didn’t. Regardless, they lived a life of meaning as they saw it. They lived a life of success.
Here are four traits that make being mediocre all too common. Plus, how to transcend them.
1. No follow-through
Your shelves are filled with books you plan to read someday. Many have been with you for years.
Every time you pick one up to read, something more important comes along. And by more important, I mean easier. You have the best intentions, and surely Amazon would agree based on your spending history, but for whatever reason, the books don’t get read.
You want to learn what they have to offer but can never seem to make any progress.
The first trait of the mediocre person is a lack of follow-through. They talk the talk, but when it comes time to work, they’re nowhere to be found. This is problematic for a couple reasons. First, it signals to yourself that you don’t have to do what you say you’re going to do. This lets you easily quit when things require any effort.
Second, it prevents you from moving towards a life of fulfillment. You become the person who yearns for a better life but never does anything about it.
To overcome this problem, start small. Read just one page, run just one yard, or meditate for just one minute a day. That way you don’t get overwhelmed by the entirety of the task. Then slightly increase the number each week. So on your second week, read two pages, run two yards, or meditate for two minutes a day. On week three, bump it up to three and so on.
You will quickly make progress and develop confidence in your abilities.
You are well-versed in nutrition. You know what a refined carb is. And you know what you should eat instead of them. Yet when it’s time to make dinner, you actively ignore all of that information. It’s as if your brain sequesters it away.
And it doesn’t end there.
Your finances are in a similar position. Like nutrition, you too are well-versed in money management. You know how debt works and you know you have too much of it. Yet once again, when it comes time to make a purchase, you seemingly forget the state of your funds.
You’re gaining weight and going broke and are unhappy about it.
The second trait of the mediocre person is hypocrisy. It’s saying (or knowing) one thing yet doing the opposite of it, often due to deeply ingrained habits or because the alternative requires too much work. The latter can be solved through the use of baby steps as described above. The former requires you to break old patterns.
For that, I recommend The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. Read one page a day.
3. Stop trying
You had dreams. Big dreams. And you pursued those dreams for a long time. Years, in fact.
Day in and day out, you bagged food at the local grocery store. You still lived with your parents. You didn’t like your situation but you had hope. Because each evening after work, you pursued your real passion. You were working on something you knew would be a game-changer. And you worked tirelessly to get it out to the world.
Yet somewhere along the way, things became too difficult. The challenges too insurmountable. You hit a wall and instead of electing to climb over it, you chose to stop climbing. And thus, when the climb stopped, so did your hope of a better life.
The third trait of the mediocre person is giving up.
My blog, QuickBooost, is the sixth or seventh business I’ve started. Everything before it failed. I thought about giving up my entrepreneurial dreams, but I couldn’t. I just couldn’t. It called to me with too much vigor. I had to keep marching, even against a sea of obstacles and challenges. Even then, I worked on it for years before I took it full-time. And even now, though I run it full-time, I still have a ways to go before it truly earns a full-time income.
But I keep pushing forward.
And I do it through the help of those who have come before me. Specifically, I read a lot of biographies. I find their stories inspiring. One such book I recommend is Failing Forward by John C. Maxwell. It’s more a collection of life lessons than a strict biography, but it’s great. I also have friends in the blogging space I turn to when I need to vent.
Find something that inspires you and keeps you going in the dark days. Whether that be a book, an understanding friend, or a motivational podcast.
4. Refuse to pursue fulfillment
40 years. You’ve worked in the same role for 40 years. Your employer has changed many times, but the work has stayed the same. And for 40 years, you’ve hated it. You’ve hated the people, the industry, and your day-to-day. In fact, for the last ten years, the only thing that’s gotten you through Monday morning was knowing you could soon retire.
You live for the weekends and despise everything in between.
The fourth trait of the mediocre person is refusing to pursue fulfillment. It’s not out of hypocrisy. It’s not out of lethargy. Instead, it’s out of denial. It’s rejecting the notion that you can improve your life. That you can actually enjoy your work, or your health, or your relationships.
But you don’t have to look far to find people living a better life. Okinawa, Japan is a great example. They have one of the oldest populations in the world and pursue something called Ikigai; a concept that roughly translates to living a busy life of meaningful activities. (Source: Ikigai by Héctor García and Francesc Miralles)
If an entire geographical region can cultivate meaning, so can you.
Write down what fulfillment looks like in each area of your life – career, home, mental health, etc. Set goals to address each of those areas. Work towards those goals and watch as your life improves significantly. *To avoid overwhelm, take it slow. Tackle one aspect a day or week.
Move forward with excellence
Mediocrity has nothing to do with bank account or social status. Rather, it is an indicator of your fulfillment. The successful life is one of meaning. The mediocre life is not.
To transcend mediocrity and live a more purpose-filled life:
- Follow through on your actions. Take baby steps to do so.
- Apply what you know. Break old habits to make that possible.
- Keep going. In dark moments, turn to what inspires you.
- Pursue a meaningful life. Determine what that looks like and take action.