Being Ok With Being Ordinary

Image Credit: Sebastián León Prado on Unsplash


Ok, so here's what's going to happen in this post:

First, I'm going to ask you a bunch of "What if" questions. They're going to be, well, sort of...existential questions.

You likely won't have answers to these questions. That's ok, just stay with me because I promise you I'm going somewhere with this. (Note that the questions make certain assumptions based on where we as a collective society seem to be.)

Then I'm going to provide you with an excerpt from a book; a block of text that will be related to the questions I just asked. Something for you to noodle on.

What *might* happen at this point is that sparks will fly in your brain as the existential questions I asked which you did not have have answers to begin to form hazy connections in your mind.

Finally, I will ask you the questions again. Some of the connections might solidify and instantly rewire your brain. (Maybe, maybe not...only one way to find out.)

THE GOAL: To give you a new way of looking at yourself and your life so that you might have more emotional room to breathe, as well as the ability to be more authentically yourself.

Now that you know what to expect, on with the show.

What if your actions were motivated by the things you're curious about instead of specific goals?

What if there was nowhere to get to, nowhere you had to arrive at, for you and your life to be ok?

What if you could let go of trying so hard?

What if you didn't have to prove anything to anyone?

What if it was ok for you to be average?

What if you didn't have to be any different than you are right now?

What if today - just as it is - your life was enough?

What if today - just as you are - you were enough?

Image Credit: sarandy westfall on Unsplash

The Tyranny of Exceptionalism

Most of us are pretty average at most things we do. Even if you’re exceptional at one thing, chances are you’re average or below average at most other things...

We’re all, for the most part, pretty average people. But it’s the extremes that get all of the publicity. We kind of know this already, but we rarely think and/or talk about it, and we certainly never discuss why this could be a problem.

Having the Internet, Google, Facebook, YouTube, and access to five hundred–plus channels of television is amazing. But our attention is limited...therefore, the only [things] that break through and catch our attention are the truly exceptional pieces of information...

All day, every day, we are flooded with the truly extraordinary...

Our lives today are filled with information from the extremes of the bell curve of human experience, because in the media business that’s what gets eyeballs, and eyeballs bring dollars. That’s the bottom line. Yet the vast majority of life resides in the humdrum middle. The vast majority of life is un-extraordinary, indeed quite average.

This flood of extreme information has conditioned us to believe that exceptionalism is the new normal. And because we’re all quite average most of the time, the deluge of exceptional information drives us to feel pretty damn insecure and desperate, because clearly we are somehow not good enough...

The problem is that the pervasiveness of technology and mass marketing is screwing up a lot of people’s expectations for themselves. The inundation of the exceptional makes people feel worse about themselves, makes them feel that they need to be more extreme, more radical, and more self-assured to get noticed or even matter...

This constant stream of unrealistic media dogpiles onto our existing feelings of insecurity, by overexposing us to the unrealistic standards we fail to live up to...

B-b-b-but, If I’m Not Going to Be Special or Extraordinary, What’s the Point?

It has become an accepted part of our culture today to believe that we are all destined to do something truly extraordinary...

Being “average” has become the new standard of failure. The worst thing you can be is in the middle of the pack, the middle of the bell curve...

A lot of people are afraid to accept mediocrity because they believe that if they accept it, they’ll never achieve anything, never improve, and that their life won’t matter.

This sort of thinking is dangerous. Once you accept the premise that a life is worthwhile only if it is truly notable and great, then you basically accept the fact that most of the human population (including yourself) sucks and is worthless. And this mindset can quickly turn dangerous, to both yourself and others.

The rare people who do become truly exceptional at something do so not because they believe they’re exceptional. On the contrary, they become amazing because they’re obsessed with improvement. And that obsession with improvement stems from an unerring belief that they are, in fact, not that great at all. It’s anti-entitlement. People who become great at something become great because they understand that they’re not already great—they are mediocre, they are average—and that they could be so much better.

All of this “every person can be extraordinary and achieve greatness” stuff is basically just jerking off your ego. It’s a message that tastes good going down, but in reality is nothing more than empty calories that make you emotionally fat and bloated, the proverbial Big Mac for your heart and your brain.

The ticket to emotional health, like that to physical health, comes from eating your veggies—that is, accepting the bland and mundane truths of life: truths such as “Your actions actually don’t matter that much in the grand scheme of things” and “The vast majority of your life will be boring and not noteworthy, and that’s okay.” This vegetable course will taste bad at first. Very bad. You will avoid accepting it.

But once ingested, your body will wake up feeling more potent and more alive. After all, that constant pressure to be something amazing, to be the next big thing, will be lifted off your back. The stress and anxiety of always feeling inadequate and constantly needing to prove yourself will dissipate. And the knowledge and acceptance of your own mundane existence will actually free you to accomplish what you truly wish to accomplish, without judgment or lofty expectations.

You will have a growing appreciation for life’s basic experiences: the pleasures of simple friendship, creating something, helping a person in need, reading a good book, laughing with someone you care about.

Sounds boring, doesn’t it? That’s because these things are ordinary. But maybe they’re ordinary for a reason: because they are what actually matters.

Image Credit: Ryan Hanley

What if your actions were motivated by the things you're curious about instead of specific goals?

What if there was nowhere to get to, nowhere you had to arrive at, for you and your life to be ok?

What if you could let go of trying so hard?

What if you didn't have to prove anything to anyone?

What if it was ok for you to be average?

What if you didn't have to be any different than you are right now?

What if today - just as it is - your life was enough?

What if today - just as you are - you were ENOUGH?

Image Credit: Melissa Askew on Unsplash

*I love sharing the words of people whose ideas might cause the needle to scratch on the record of your mind (a.k.a. cause an instant shift in perception). I quote them directly as a way to promote their work, and because I couldn't have said it better myself. I do not benefit in any way from said promotion; I promote what I love because I love it.

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