The title of this post was inspired by a podcast I was listening to recently with Cheyrl Strayed on Oprah’s Super Soul Conversations called “The Humble Path to Greatness”
It was a powerful message and yet so contradictory to what an ambitious high achiever like myself would wish to do. It made no sense initially - “why would I accept mediocrity, and what is this saying? Am I not good enough to be great?”
I’ve never been one for settling for mediocrity as a general rule, it was part of the reason why I decided to leave my corporate career and start my own business - there were too many people comfortable with mediocrity in the corporate environment and frankly from my own perspective it wasn’t good enough.
How could high performance possibly be achieved in those environments when we settle for mediocrity 80% of the time. How could we achieve greatness when people were happy being mediocre?
However, listening to this podcast I found myself reframing a narrative that I didn’t realise I needed to reframe. What I learned was that many of us set ourselves such lofty aspirational goals that the bar is so incredibly high we can never reach it.
We want to be better and achieve amazing things but then get paralysed by our own expectations of what great looks like. Now if you are a Type A, perfectionist like me then I have to agree some of the challenges I set myself do seem insurmountable mainly because of the way I have aspired to achieve them.
I’ll give you an example - I’ve wanted to write a book for two years, I’ve started and stopped several times over. Why? Not because I haven’t got the time, even though that’s an easy excuse we can all tell ourselves but because my own expectations of great is comparing myself to exceptional writers and authors that I admire.
In doing this I’m telling myself a story that my book has got to be as amazing as theirs, and that there is no point writing one if its not going to be a great one.
Aspiring to do good work in itself isn’t a bad thing but if it stops you from putting any work out as a result of the ridiculously high bar that has been set then it’s rather ridiculous.
I now understood what Cheryl Strayed meant, in surrendering to your mediocrity - I could choose to accept who I am in my own skin and work on a book that was just about being the fullest expression of what I could create it to be. It doesn’t need to be an international best seller, or one that makes it on to Oprah’s Book Club, it doesn’t need to be the best written book in the world, it just needs to be one that I can actually write, one where I can acknowledge my own mediocrity in doing so, but write it and put it out there anyway.
It’s a powerful lesson, and one I seemed to have forgotten!
It helped me see that surrendering to my mediocrity wasn’t about being mediocre but it was about seeking to do the best work I could do - just by being me.
I helped me see that surrendering to my mediocrity would allow my goals to be more attainable and therefore more likely that I would reach for them than never try.
Success isn’t about achieving greatness but acknowledging our own efforts in reaching for something that we can deliver when we surrender to our own mediocrity.
What would surrendering to your own mediocrity look like? And what would you seek to achieve if you didn’t have to be anyone else but your imperfect self?