The dictionary aptly defines mediocrity as “moderate to inferior in quality.“ Derived from the French term of the same spelling, mediocre literally means “halfway up the mountain.” Insinuating how accepting mediocrity is to fail to achieve one’s objective or fall short of attaining one’s potential. If I had only word to capture the essence of this definition I’d offer the term, settling.
Why am I so hard on mediocrity, you ask? Because mediocrity is the parent of accepting less than our best and the close cousin of relativism. You know what I’m talking about. The way of thinking that leads us to accept that “we’re not the fastest, but we’re not the slowest.” “Our service is adequate, but we’re better than most.” “We’re holding our own, content with not being last in our industry.” “I’m an adequate boss, spouse, or parent, I’m certainly not the worst.”
The truth of the matter is, this narrow view of thinking is a crutch mediocre people use to get through life. It’s a convenient excuse to stay safely within our comfort zones. And it’s a sure pathway to ensuring we stay small.
Sadly, I believe many people accept mediocrity as the norm because they think choosing the other extreme, excellence, means they have to be perfect. Or perhaps they feel it will require them to press forward at all costs, dedicating everything to the relentless pursuit of their objectives.
But they are mistaken.
Leading your life in a more excellent way means striving to do the best you possibly can, in that moment. In everything you do. It means being willing to risk trying new things, opening ourselves to criticism, and not allowing our fears to paralyze us in place. It is accepting the simple truth that journey we call life is about continuously learning, growing and pushing the bounds of our potential. Most importantly, it means not measuring our success by any yardstick other than if we did all we could with what we had in that moment.
Too often, we allow mediocrity to creep into our lives and condition us to further lower our sights and dilute our standards. Blinding us in the process to the reality that learning to lead our lives in a more excellent way has little to nothing to do with formal education; degrees don’t confer excellence. It has nothing to do with how wealthy we are; money doesn’t buy us excellence. Nor is it about having friends in high places; position doesn’t equate to excellence. Excellence then is best measured by how we choose to use the opportunities we have every day to have more impact, make more of a difference, and do our best work, wherever we are planted.
We would be wise to remember that what we strive to accomplish in and through our life resides foremost in our head and our hearts. The goals, aspirations and dreams we possess are meant to propel us forward. They collectively represent the calling on our lives to fully become the person we are capable of becoming. But if we allow ourselves to continue to be ruled by the demands and opinions of the crowd; if we allow ourselves to mirror the mediocrity of the masses; then the best we can ever hope for is to lead our lives by someone else’s rules. All but guaranteeing our dreams will diminish, our goals will fizzle, and our aspirations will die, never being given a fair chance to see the light of day.
Thus, the true tragedy of accepting mediocrity instead of embracing excellence as our preferred way of walking in the world is knowing deep down that we lived life far short of our potential. Not because we didn’t achieve everything we set out to accomplish. But because we didn’t even try to really attain it in the first place.
Don’t let the tyranny of mediocrity sell you short of all you are capable of being and doing. Make the move, take the chance, go the distance. Why be happy settling for anything less than living your life to the fullest?