Aiming for the top, being the best, striving for perfection. Wanting to achieve at the highest level is surely a goal we should all aim for? Well, not necessarily.
It is, of course, positive to want to achieve at the highest level we can but the problems may begin when we give ourselves unrealistic goals.
Always wanting to reach the highest point can make us anxious and unfairly, disappointed with ourselves.
We are surrounded by so many images of perfection and high achieving – no wonder we feel compelled to match their dizzying heights. When did the word average become a description for less-than or not good enough? If we genuinely feel something is good or positive for us, why is it downgraded to average in other peoples eyes? It is incredibly easy to believe that a middle ground of anything is not desirable – we are often led to think that only the highest level is palatable.
The truth is we are all pretty average at most areas of our lives. We all have our own strengths and weaknesses. But the fact is, most of us are pretty average at most things we do. Even if you’re truly exceptional at one thing — say math, or jump rope, or making money off the black gun market — chances are you’re pretty average or below average at most other things. That’s just the nature of life. To become truly great at something, you have to dedicate time and energy to it and because we all have limited time and energy, few of us ever become truly exceptional at more than one thing, if anything at all.
It’s good to be aware that success looks different for everyone. And to be aware of nepotism, classism, ageism, racism and misogyny in the workplace that presents obstacles for some of us. To succeed in our careers we need grit and determination, yup, but also a tremendous amount of luck.
Cutting ourselves some slack is not lazy, it is being realistic and kind to ourselves. It is about not stressing why you still have not secured that promotion, larger house or romantic success. It is all good, it is absolutely fine. We are all doing our best, within financial means and emotional state of mind. Some self care is definitely what is needed when we are being critical about ourselves and our choices.
Aiming for middling runs counter to how most of us function in our winner-takes -all society. Who wants to be average? We want above-average results in all areas of our lives: careers, relationships, children, even regarding airplane seats and hotel rooms. We are always jockeying to improve our position relative to others. Despite a few pockets of low self-esteem, we generally think of ourselves as above-average in most areas of life. A simple example is a well-known study showed that most people consider themselves to be above-average drivers, clearly, that is statistically impossible.
There are only a finite number of top spots in every area of work and life – that is a fact. How can we all possibly fit into those at the same time? It is not as if opportunities only lie at the top. In fact, I believe there are plenty more opportunities in the average zone. That is where growth, learning and acceptance exist. Why not take advantage?
Remember to feel fulfilled and avoid those feelings of being average. it is about more than just liking or being good at something. The secret to a joyous and impactful life is finding something that lies at the intersection of three things: what you are good at, what you enjoy doing, and what the world values.
Finding that will take trial and error, so do not be afraid to try out many different passions. What you end up loving and feeling great at might be very far away from the expectations you have always had for yourself. Experiment intentionally with different things until you find that magic combination of ability, interest, and value.
How to help you aim for average:
• Set your own limits – Remember that you can choose what time, effort and energy you give to everything you do – and sometimes doing less, means that you can give more to things that are more important to you.
• Keep a gratitude diary. Focus on what you have, not what you lack. Write down 3 things each day that you are grateful for. This moves us from a focus on striving to a focus on thriving.
• Keep an ‘I did it list’. Appreciate the progress – however small – you have made at the end of each day. This is a great way of giving you a real feeling of satisfaction. You did enough – well done!
• Fall in love with stopping. Like an artist painting a picture, it can be easy to over paint and never stop – always in search of that final touch. But there’s nothing quite like putting the metaphorical brush down and saying ‘that’s good enough’. Savour the moment when you stop.
Enjoy being an average without a pang of guilt. You may never know, there is someone who would give anything to be in your shoes. People genuinely will not remember any particular success story of yours for long. However, they will always remember how you made them feel. Start each day afresh and have the confidence to live your life at your own pace.
So divert your eyes from the top, explore different opportunities and find contentment in the middle ground. As challenging as it is not to look at others lifestyles, financial situation – or even likes on social media – it is empowering for us to be ourselves and believe in ourselves.