Why are we accepting lives of mediocrity?

The one thing you need to have in order to live a more joyful life

Webster’s defines mediocre as “of moderate or low quality, value, ability, or performance.”

Does that describe your life?

I think for many of us, it does. I believe a mediocre life would include: waking up exhausted every day, going to a job you don’t like, performing work duties with a sense of despondency, coming home tired with a short temper, playing on your phone instead of being present with your family, unhappily chauffeuring kids to activities that you don’t want to be at, going through the bedtime routine while wishing your kids were old enough to put themselves to bed, and finally ending your day zoning out in front of the TV.

It would also include not engaging in self-care, not participating in activities you enjoy, not exercising, eating unhealthy and/or overeating, engaging in addictive behaviors, constantly feeling overwhelmed and stressed out, running on empty, feeling mostly negative towards your partner/coworkers/boss, and feeling unhappy about your life while doing nothing to change it.

Basically, I’d define mediocrity as going through the motions of an unfulfilled joyless life and just trying to make it through the day.

You might not carry this full load of mediocrity, but I’m guessing at a minimum you carry pieces, and you could probably think of some other pieces to add to my description.

How many moms joke about surviving on coffee and wine to cope with the exhaustion and overwhelm of daily life with kids? I’m in a few Facebook working mom groups, and a common complaint moms voice is feeling like they are drowning. Life seems like an endless struggle.

It’s not just moms that live like this though. For years before I had kids, I had a job that I hated, but I kept at it because I believed the lies: I’ll never learn as much as I learn here, I’ll be bored at any other job, I’ll work just as much at any other job, I need to work crazy hours to advance my career. I kept at it because I thought it was normal to be miserable going to work every day, and I didn’t believe that something better was out there for me.

I was wrong. There was.

There are many items I listed above as mediocre that we say are normal. And I would argue that although it’s common to live a mediocre life, it is definitely not normal. Normal is the way we were designed to live. And we were not designed to live in mediocrity. Mediocrity is not really living. It’s existing. It’s surviving.

You say it, right? Someone asks how you are doing and you say, “I’m surviving.” I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of just surviving. I’m tired of accepting mediocrity as normal because “life is hard.”

Life is definitely hard, and adulting means doing a lot of things that you don’t feel like doing. I work and I have three young kids — I spend a lot of my time doing things that I don’t feel like doing.

Once you get a new job, things will get better, but you’re not looking for a job that excites and interests you. Once the kids get older things will get better, but you’re not making changes now to bring little bursts of sunshine to the monotony of your day. Once summer comes and you’re not running around to activities, things will get better, but you’re not thinking of how to curb your crazy schedules the rest of the year. Once your partner stops treating you poorly and starts helping you more, things will get better, but you keep settling for being treated like garbage.

Once you have time, things will get better…which will be, when really? In 20 years when your kids are grown, and you’ve retired? What about all those years in between? Those years where you’re passively waiting for your fairy godmother to appear and make everything better while you feel miserable because nothing is changing.

We spend our time on the things that we value. We can tell ourselves that we value self-care and exercise and eating healthy and being present with our families, but if we’re not actually spending time on those things, then we’re lying to ourselves. And we’re not valuing ourselves.

We see basic needs like sleep as luxuries. We push ourselves to burn-out because we don’t value rest and recuperation. And most of us continue living like this unless something huge blows our world apart. A cancer diagnosis, a job loss, a betrayal. Often, once people break through the suffering of their personal disaster, they are grateful for what they went through. Their crisis positively changed the way they approach their lives.

It is possible to be happy going to work or chauffeuring your kids around or doing other chore type activities, especially if you make a daily habit of prioritizing activities that make you feel happy. This is because of the energy and perspective you can bring to any task if you structure your life in a self-valued way. When you value yourself enough to take care of yourself and make time for the things that really matter to you, you feel good, and you can approach the mundane or the chaos with joy.

Marie Kondo has swept the globe with her question, “does this spark joy?” Her question focuses on possessions, but I think we need to apply this to all aspects of our lives, including our beliefs.

And it’s not only that we’re believing the lies, we’re wearing the lies as a badge of honor. Look at how busy our lives are. Look at how much we’re juggling and doing. Look at how we’re martyring ourselves for our kids. And we think, this is just how life is, and it’s how life is supposed to be, because if I’m not busy then I don’t have value. I need to constantly be contributing and overworking myself because I believe that is where my worth comes from.

I call bullshit.

I’m all about expressing gratitude. We have so much to be grateful for in this life. But when we live joyless incessantly busy lives, we are unable to see those moments of gratitude. We force the gratitude instead of naturally embracing it and letting it flow through us.

We miss the beauty of the sunrise because we’re so exhausted driving into work in the morning. We miss the awe on our child’s face as he examines a flower because we’re in a rush to get to the next activity. We miss the taste of a delicious meal because we’re scrolling through Facebook while we eat. We miss the feel of a gorgeous fall afternoon because we’re too busy at work to take a 10-minute break and go outside.

We are overflowing, yet unfulfilled.

We’re using our busyness to define our worth and numb our pain. And if we went through our lives and asked ourselves, “does this spark joy”, I think we would have the urge to throw much of our busyness away.

So how do we even start this process? If we must work and take care of our families and tend to our adult responsibilities, how do we begin to put more joy in our lives?

We start with our beliefs. We stop equating common with normal. Just because most of the people you know are living life a certain way doesn’t mean that is the right way for you to live. Just because we’ve been fed lies for most of our lives doesn’t mean that we can’t start searching for the truth.

Do you believe the lie that your worth is defined by things outside of you? That your worth is dependent on accomplishing the things on your to do list? That your worth is dependent on being the perfect partner, employee, parent, or friend? That your worth is dependent on your job, your social status, your Facebook likes, or what other people think of you? Sit with those thoughts for awhile. Do those beliefs feel good to you? Do those beliefs spark joy?

Now sit with the belief that you have worth simply because you are you. And nothing you do or don’t do can take that away from you. Just like an awe-struck child has inherent worth because she exists as a unique human being, you have inherent worth, too. That feels better doesn’t it?

When you truly know your worth, and you believe that nothing outside of you defines your worth, you will want the best for you. And the best for you is not eating crappy food while you yell at your kids because you’re stressed out and overworked at your job.

What beliefs do you hold that spark joy? And what beliefs do you hold that need to be thrown out with those high school trophies you’ve been hanging on to?

Settling for mediocrity is common, but it’s not normal. Know your worth enough to strive for joy.

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4X Top Writer. I turn pain into stories about what it means to be human. julie.martina.writer@gmail.com. Join Medium https://juliemartina.medium.com/membership

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