How to Escape Mediocrity

“Mediocrity is the worst enemy of greatness.” – Icelandic proverb

Imagine you sit down on a hot radiator. In a few seconds, you will feel intense heat on your bum, jump up, curse, then go sit down somewhere else. And you’ll be ok.

Now imagine you’re in an uncomfortably hot room. But you’re feeling lazy, and the discomfort isn’t quite enough to make you get up and open the window or turn down the heating. So you stay, uncomfortable, for hours…

A lot of people live their life like that. Doing alright, not entirely comfortable… but not bothered enough to do anything about it.

And just like in the above example, that usually leads to more discomfort in the long run than the sharp painful situation. Because unless you know a few clever tricks (covered below), mediocrity will make you complacent.

A simple test to see how your life is right now

How you’re doing can be lumped in three basic categories:

  • awful
  • mediocre
  • great

(Yes, that’s a pretty obvious and arbitrary lumping, but you’ll see in a second how it’s useful.)

And as we saw at the beginning… mediocre can sometimes be worse than awful, because it doesn’t compel you to take action. It’s not great, but it’s not painful enough to make you get up and do something about it.

Okay, here’s the test:

When somebody asks you “How are you?”, what do you usually answer?

A friend of mine brought this to my attention recently. She pointed out that every time we meet and she asks how I am, I answer “Awesome!”.

So I gave it some thought, and I realized it’s because I AM doing awesome every time we meet!

There’s always something exciting going on in my life. Maybe I’ve been fire-breathing with my friends recently, or I took on a new batch of life coaching clients, or I went to a great swing dancing party…

I don’t mean to brag about how awesome my life is. I just want to see that how you’re doing will fundamentally affect how you answer the “how are you?” question. (And conversely, the words you use will affect how you feel)

Here are some typical answers I get from people for different zones:

Zone:How are you?
  • If you only had an hour…
  • Don’t even ask…
  • Not too bad
  • Alright
  • Fine
  • Good.
  • Could be worse
  • So so…
  • Just like yesterday
  • Awesome!
  • Feelin’ great.. and how are you?
  • Good!

Have some fun with this! One day, notice how many people answer in each zone 🙂 (and keep a tally). You might be surprised by the results.

How to escape mediocrity

So you’re doing alright, chugging along. Your life isn’t awful, but it’s not that great either.

How do you give yourself that kick on the bum to get motivated to make your life great?

It comes down to the pain and pleasure principle, (which I’ll sum up for you in a moment).

Mediocrity is a horrible insidious trap, because it doesn’t quite give you the discomfort to get you moving and changing.

Sitting down on a radiator will get you moving in a few seconds, because of the intense pain which motivates you to change your circumstances. And a minute or two later you’re doing just fine. Yet you can sit in an uncomfortably hot room for hours.

Same with a mediocre life – you can get trapped for years, living an alright existence. It’s not something that will get you to jump up excited out of bed at 5 in the morning, but at the same time it’s not painful enough to make you jump up and shout “I WILL CHANGE!”

So let’s get you motivated to live the life you really want!

It’s all about the emotional motivation

You can think about the logical reasons for changing all day long. But motivation comes from deep in your gut – from your emotions.

As I discuss in more detail in How to Conquer Fear, the emotional part of your brain doesn’t respond to logical reasons. It responds to vivid images and movies you make in your head.

The key to kicking up your motivation isn’t to find more logical reasons. The key is to start imagining how great your life will be if you change, and how horrible it will be if you keep going the way you’re going, until you jump up and shout “I WILL CHANGE!”

Kick up the relative pain and pleasure (don’t skip this)

Take a few moments to answer the following questions, and really imagine the answers. This alone will give you a mighty motivational kick on the bum to move you towards greatness. And doing it right now will drive this principle deep into your subconscious, so you can benefit from it later. (I want you take away something real from reading this article.)

Okay, let’s get started:

What would change give you? What would your “great” life look like?

Take a few moments to imagine it. Earning money doing something you love. Spending free time doing something you love. Being with people you will love hanging out with.

Imagine it now.

Okay, come back.

Now take a few moments to imagine what your life will be like if you keep living in mediocrity. Keeping an “alright” job. Living an “alright” life.

Where will you be in 20 years, if you keep living like that?

Now image being on your death bed, thinking about your life behind you. How will you feel if you live a life in alignment with your core values? What will you have achieved?

How about a mediocre life. What will you see when you reach your deathbed? What will your life have been like? Would you be happy with it?

Escaping mediocrity is about what you want

Living a great life doesn’t mean influencing millions of people or being famous or being super-rich. At least not for everyone.

Living a great life is about living in alignment with your values. Doing something you love.

A great life is when you wake up excited every morning, and go to sleep content every night. A great life is when you know you’ve done a great job each day, each week… and that you’re truly living the life you want.

Isn’t that worth changing for? Facing a bit of discomfort?

That’s up to you to answer. Because in the end, your life won’t change until you want it to change.

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