A mediocre life is one in which you put forth a mediocre effort.
In the Bible myth, Adam and Eve were cast out of the Garden of Eden, condemned to live by the “sweat of their brow all the days of their lives.”
In some ways, this is an archetype for being born, cast out of the womb where food, shelter, and comfort were instant, effortless, and boundless. The outside world is different. It requires boundless effort. Not all of us want to work hard at living, and that is a mediocre life, regardless of anything else.
I recall an interview I did with fitness guru Jack Lalanne. He was 93 at the time and had been exercising for two hours per day – every single day – for around 75 years. “Wow,” I said. “That’s amazing commitment.”
“Work at living!” he replied.
You could boil this down to doing your best. This is how legendary basketball coach John Wooden defined success ( I interviewed him, too:). According to the winningest college basketball coach of all time, success is the knowledge that you have done the best of which you are capable. Forget winning, Wooden told me. Do your very best and let the chips fall where they may. This man was a master of bringing out the best in his athletes.
Life is hard. Are you doing your best?
If not, you may be living a mediocre life, regardless of your results. And only you know if you’re doing your best.
A personal trainer once made it clear what my best was. It was the end of a grueling, 45-minute workout and we were finishing up with push-ups. My instructions were to do as many as I could. As I reached the point of exhaustion, muscles on fire, I hesitated. Did I have one or two more in me? My trainer simply said, “Leave it all here, Mike.” I squeezed out two more, collapsed involuntarily and almost vomited. That was it. I’d done my best.
A mediocre life is one of chronic inner conflict. You know at some level you’re holding back, making excuses, blaming others, and in general being a child. Do any of the following signs of a mediocre life apply to you?
1. Deep down you know you are not doing your best. This is probably the most important sign of all. It takes a mature adult to admit it and even more maturity to do something about it, without making excuses or blaming.
2. Procrastination. It’s so over-mentioned online and for a reason. Procrastination is a universal problem. What would happen if you were to suddenly stop? Where would you be in one, three, five, and ten years? These prospects might fill you with fear of success or overwhelming pressure of some sort, but it’s better to deal with those issues than to continue living a mediocre life.
3. You get called a slacker a lot. If you get called this consistently, you probably are a slacker, although it’s so easy to respond to the criticism by pointing out all the injustices and hypocrisy you’re forced to live with. Again, it’s better to tolerate the injustice and stop slacking. This is the way out of a mediocre life.
4. The ‘good enough’ mindset. The ‘good enough’ mindset allows you to put in the least amount of effort and get by. When you take on a project, you prefer the path of least resistance so you can get back to what you’d rather be doing as soon as possible. The results will be mediocre. When you add up all of your ‘good enough’ results, you may be in mediocre life territory.
5. Only doing what you feel like doing. No matter how in love you are with something, there is always going to be something about it that’s a drag. I love my work training life coaches and counselors in Neuro-Linguistic Programming. I love teaching and doing coaching demonstrations. With this business comes a variety of tasks I simply do not enjoy, however. That’s life. If I neglect the administrative tasks that I deplore, my business suffers, which puts me squarely on the path to a mediocre life. Nobody gets to only do what they feel like doing.
Perhaps you noticed that I haven’t defined a mediocre life by the results, only by our own actions. This is what we can control. Doing your level best in an area of talent will typically yield good results. This is why Coach John Wooden led his UCLA Bruin basketball team to 10 national championships in 12 years – an unfathomable result! Yet, he never emphasized winning to his players, just doing the best job of which they were capable. This could be the most important element of living a successful life.
I highly recommend the book Wooden: A Lifetime of Reflections On and Off the Court if you want to bring out the best in yourself. If you suspect self-sabotage to be an issue, then you must read my short Kindle book, Your Achilles Eel (yes, eel).
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