I recently read an article by a lady asking whether it is alright if she only wants a ‘mediocre life’. She then went on to describe her slower- and simpler-than-average lifestyle and defined mediocre as ‘striving for excellence‘. Looking at her blog I noticed that she’s a hardworking business woman and mother and it’s obvious to me that she is in fact, by all means, striving for excellence. It’s the definition of excellence that is in question.
You see I think there’s a very prevalent idea that ‘excellence’ equals working towards the same big ball goals as every other schmo out there – the executive job, the many large houses, the expensive cars. The shiny baubles that everyone is taught by society to believe they want, but in fact many actually do not. The author of the article does not. What she’s actually asking is whether it’s okay for her to live in accordance with her own values and walk along on her own path to her self-defined goals and it should be plain to you by now that my answer to that would be an emphatic yes.
Living a mediocre life is not the same thing as living in authenticity to your own unique purpose. Living a mediocre life is living without effort to do your personal best, without a greater purpose other than just existing and getting by. Is it okay to live a life without purpose or effort to do the best you can with what you have been given? Is it okay to stop progressing to the things that matter to you? My answer to that would be an equally emphatic no.
Imagine this: you have a young adult son, whom you have raised since he was borne to you. You know him well, and have learned over the years that he has many strengths and abilities. Yet, he spends each day sleeping in until after noon and when he finally rises, he eats food from your pantry and spends most of his time reclining on your couch. His only noticeable activities are playing computer games and occasionally going out for fast food (paid for by yourself, of course). Are you pleased with this young man and how he is acting?
I’d be willing to bet that you’re not pleased. You know that this kid has a ton of potential, and he is as smart as a whip. Yet because he refuses to use his own wealth of inner resources to create something for himself, he is relying completely on you, using up your hard-earned resources. You would most likely not put up with such behaviour for long.
The above example is an extreme of leading a mediocre life. It’s a life full of nothingness. No direction, no action, no intention. Neither good nor bad. Mere existence, just getting by. A total waste of the potential that you know is there. This is a somewhat exaggerated (yet completely realistic) example of why I say it’s not okay to live a mediocre life. If you’re not using your own gifts and personal resources to live your life with intention, you’re being very wasteful.
I base many of my own core values upon the biblical standards I grew up with. The biblical position seems to be that we are all given talents and strengths, and that to waste them because we’re ignorant, fearful or lazy is wrong. This is something which generally rings true when we extend the concept to waste of resources in general, doesn’t it? Don’t you hate the destruction you see that happens because people are wasteful and careless with our resources? Our talents and strengths are resources as well, and not using them responsibly also breeds waste and destruction.
So how do we turn this around? If you’re currently not clear on your life goals, or you feel that you’re living day to day without direction, how do you create it?
Recognising and living according to what is important to us (our values) is foundational to living with purpose. If you can pinpoint the things that are most important to you, the things that you want to be known for in life, the things you would regret not having achieved or attained by the time you die, you’re well on the way.
Goal setting based on your personal values is the next step to living each day with purpose. Once you have a specific desired result (destination, goal) in mind, your life purpose becomes clear. You are now able to break each goal down into small, achievable tasks. No matter how small the task, you know that completion leads you a little bit closer to reaching your goal.
For example, if you have children and one of your personal values is raising them responsibly, you are in a goal-making position. Raising your children responsibly means you are trying to teach them to be successful and good adults. That is a huge goal in itself, and tied up within it are many smaller ones. Every way that you take care of your kids is one task leading to achievement of the whole end goal.
Action is the final vital part of the puzzle. Living with purpose can only occur when you are in this phase. You know why you’re doing it, you know how to do it, now you need to begin putting one foot in front of the other. Your actions are coordinated and meaningful. Each day can become a conscious effort to move you closer to your goal. You are living and working with intention to progress towards those things that you really want.
So values –> goals –> action –> purpose. I have another article about setting death bed goals here. I recommend reading this if you’re still a bit unclear on this process as it goes into the topic in greater depth.
One thing it is vitally important to remember is that your purpose doesn’t look like anyone else’s, because your goals don’t. Your goals don’t look like anyone else’s, because your core values, the things that make you tick, are not quite like anyone else’s. Living according to your own values does not mean you’re living a mediocre life. Having values but ignoring them because you’re lazy or afraid or ignorant is living a mediocre life. When your actions line up with the things that matter to you, you are living and working with purpose; the furthest thing from living a mediocre life.