People are very good at doing two things – surviving crises and accepting mediocrity. To protect our egos, we use euphemisms for mediocrity. We say we are good enough rather than admit we have accepted mediocre life outcomes.
To some extent, we can blame evolution.
Our bodies are regulated by the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems. As everyone learned in 9th grade biology, the parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for your bodily functions when you’re at rest. You don’t need will power to breath, have a beating heart, or digest food. The parasympathetic nervous system puts us into “chill” mode.
Our sympathetic are responsible for the fight-or-flight response and give us huge doses of adrenaline. If you heard a gun shot outside, your body would automatically give you a huge dose of epinephrine, norepinephrine. Your heart rate would skyrocket, your body would release glucose for fuel, and you’d be ready to move – to fight or to flee.
In other words, our bodies are evolved to help us avoid dying and to conserve energy. Our bodies are not evolved to drive us to accomplish great things.
Everyone has had to overcome some huge life crisis. We may smirk at a high school kid being emo about “having his heart broken,” but when you put yourself into the shoes of a teenager, you remember how awful all that lovey-dovey shit was.
I would laugh at a guy with approach anxiety, and that would be unfair. There was a time when fear controlled my life, too. I am unsympathetic to the plight of newbies only because I live in denial of my former, weaker self. It is a character flaw that I am working on.
When life gets really bad, we find a way to overcome obstacles that seemed insurmountable. We find a way to make things happen. Yet we make thing happen only when life forces us to.
Think about your last life crisis. You probably dealt with some huge problems. Your body became very stressed. You felt hopeless. Then somehow you were able to solve the problem. You survived.
But you didn’t rush to that crisis, did you? Instead it was thrust upon you. You didn’t have a choice. You had to either survive or die. You really didn’t have a choice.
After surviving, you probably did what everyone else does. It’s what society tells us to do. You went back to your normal life and waited for time to heal your wounds.
You did not take the resolve and fortitude you found deep within yourself and apply it to something else.
You didn’t say, “Wow. I never thought I’d be able to solve that problem. Now that life is back to normal, I am going to use those same skills to take myself from a state of mediocrity to a state of excellence.”
There are undoubtedly areas of your life that need work. You may suck at something and want to improve. Or you may be “good enough” but know you can become excellent.
If I put a gun to your head, could you accomplish your goals? Would you do something that you’ve been putting off? If I put a gun to your head, would anything stand between your current mediocre self and your excellent self?
What would happen to your life if you treated being mediocre not as something you can live with, but as a crisis that must be survived?
Read now: What I’ve Learned from Normal People.