Do you want to be just another statistic?

This was a question I asked myself long ago. Like many of us, I’d seen countless graphs, plots and data across all types of variables over the years making us compare ourselves to the rest of society. In an increasingly information-driven era, we’re treated as data points to be collected and analysed with empiricists of all stripes placing us into boxes so that they can tell us what the ‘average’ person does, who the ‘average’ person is’, how the ‘average’ person behaves.

I don’t know about you, but being ‘average’ doesn’t seem appealing. I don’t want to fall around the mean for something I care about. I want to get upside from it by doing it properly or not doing it at all.

Of course, statistics are invaluable in analyses of society. But empirical data is useful only if they spur us on toward action.

“Don’t settle for mediocrity” is a useful phrase to help prevent us from regressing to a life where we never reach our full potential.

To some, ‘mediocre’ doesn’t sound so bad but there’s actually a subtle reason why mediocrity is more damning than it first appears.

The subtle danger of mediocrity

What comes to mind when you hear the word ‘mediocrity?’

You might think of something ‘middle-of-the-road’, ‘average’ or ‘unexceptional’. Nothing too below par, it has enough quality to get by.

But herein lies the danger with mediocrity—that which is mediocre doesn’t stay around the middle for too long. In fact, it tends to get worse.

No domain is static. It doesn’t matter whether it’s the stock market, a specific career path or a new skill, there are constant movers and chasers, pushers and pullers. The dynamic is such that if you’re not working to get better, you’ll be overtaken by someone who is. If you’re stuck in the complacency of mediocrity, not only will you not just stay at the level you’re at, you’re actually more likely to FALL in the long run.

“Don’t settle for mediocrity” then becomes an important mindset to prevent the long term detrimental effects of complacency from occurring.

The role of the comfort zone in mediocrity

Where the comfort zone treads, mediocrity usually isn’t far behind. It’s so easy to settle into our cocoon of familiarity once we feel the walls of its shelter are good enough.

However, ‘comfort zone’ and ‘exceptional’ are like oil and water, they don’t mix. If you want to achieve outsized upside, you need to move beyond the boundaries of your comfort zone.

One practical way to move beyond the comfort zone is by embracing a growth mindset. Embracing a growth mindset isn’t a one-and-done type of intervention. It means cultivating an attitude of ongoing learning knowing that through enough focus and application, you can acquire new knowledge and skillsets in anything because others who’ve done so are human just like you.

Don’t settle for mediocrity like so many who think that education finishes at degree level. Education never ends because learning is a lifelong process whether we like it or not. We can either pay heed to life’s lessons with an open mind or be smacked in the face painfully by them.

Don't Settle For Mediocrity Growth Mindset

A three-pronged approach – High standards, big ambitions and manageable expectations

Complacency is a poison for progress and a stimulant for mediocrity. If we want continuous outsized outcomes, we must avoid complacency at all costs.

One way we can do this is by mastering how we deal with our aspirations.

We all have aspirations but some people make them more concrete than others. If we fail to make our goals concrete, we risk never conceiving them in reality compared to those who do. We risk becoming trapped in the quagmire of wishful thinking without action, mediocrity written all over.

But making our aspirations explicit isn’t sufficient, we need to ensure they’re bold enough to push us beyond our comfort zone. A big, hairy, audacious ambition will drag you away from mediocrity by virtue of the loftiness of the aspiration.

Large ambitions coupled with uncompromising standards is a surefire combination to ensure we don’t settle for mediocrity.

At the same time, it’s important to never get stuck on an endless hedonic treadmill expecting that next goal to give us the state of fulfillment we’re looking for. A life of contentment isn’t one where our expectations are never exceeded.

If instead we manage our expectations by following a process we enjoy, giving it all we’ve got, and stoically accepting come what may, we allow ourselves the best chance of dual upside—that which takes place in the world and that which takes place in our minds.

Not settling for mediocrity then means avoiding the stagnancy of middle-of-the-road outcomes without teetering towards a life of constant dissatisfaction from never having enough.

Dealing with societal pressures and expectations to conform

We face pressures to conform all the time; our environment has nurtured us in particular ways up to now and will continue to do so.

Some of these pressures can be useful. Your friends expect you to have a certain vibe and camaraderie with them and vice versa. You’re expected to adhere to a common idea of ethics and morality for a safe and balanced society. You’re expected to turn up to work on time because tardiness could affect not only your own productive output but that of coworkers who depend on you.

But many of the pressures we face stem from the baseless agenda of others. Do you have to work in the office 5 days a week because your boss feels it’s right or would your company be just as fine with a hybrid or even remote-based model? Are you reluctant to spend time in one country because your xenophobic uncle would judge you or would it change your life if you made the move? Are you hesitating to learn a new skill because your insecure friends don’t want to see one of their peers improving themself if they can’t or would you grow in amazing ways and even meet new high-value people if you did?

You’ve heard it all before but vital truisms are worth hearing from many sources so I’ll say it here: you’ll never become truly fulfilled in life if you worry about what others think and conform to their expectations. Doing so is a fast track towards mediocrity.

It’s understandable that we weight the opinions of family, friends and trusted others more. But as the above examples prove, we can’t always be sure about their recommendations. Only you can make decisions for how you want to live because only you know what you’re like. Make sure that others don’t impede your own growth mindset, even if they’re close to you.

Don't Settle For Mediocrity Upside

Building a community of excellence

“Don’t settle for mediocrity” is an admirable mantra to live by but it’s not easy on your own. How do you know that the path you’re on is on course for beyond average outcomes? How do you hold yourself accountable to high standards? How do you build an environment that protects you against wider irrelevant societal pressures?

You surround yourself with a community of excellence.

High achievers aren’t built in a vacuum. Their environments are set up to be conducive to their aims. And as people often make up a huge chunk of our environment, the people you’re surrounded by play an important role in your success. As the saying goes: You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with (including yourself).

How do you find likeminded people with similar standards and a growth mindset?

In many instances, hustling towards your ambitions with committed time and effort will put you in the path of similar people through osmosis.

But it isn’t always this easy and as I’ve stated many times on this blog, you have to be proactive in forming and refining social circles to get the most out of them.

Reach out to people in your industry. Join strong hobbyist groups. Show that you have something to offer new people you meet, even if that’s just lending an ear or offering administrative help.

Not everybody pursues a domain with the same intensity as you may but you won’t necessarily know that from initial impressions. Hold an open-mind when first meeting anyone new as they may have a lot of hidden value they can bring to the table.

Choose your bases and ports of call wisely. If you want to get the most out of your environment, you need to move to the best ones, you can’t expect them to come to you. Think about which areas of your country or even the world contain the best scenes for your lifestyle design choices. Consider moving to a city more conducive to the core function of your lifestyle design metrics and that has thematic areas for them.

Many social circles are increasingly maintained online through digital communities but the best connections are the ones you make in person, even if you initially connect with someone online.

When you’re involved in a community of excellence, you’ll naturally feel compelled to raise your level of investment and performance to meet the standards each of you expect from the other. On days where you feel jaded or low (which everyone experiences), your likeminded community will steer you towards commitment and act as a support group when you feel lost.

Never underestimate the importance of good people in your progress. Don’t settle for mediocrity, cultivate a culture of excellence in your personal and professional circles.

Don't Settle For Mediocrity Community

Summary – Don’t settle for mediocrity

None of us want to be mediocre at anything yet mediocrity creeps into our lives in ways we don’t even imagine. Avoiding mediocrity is about living a life of meaning knowing that you weren’t just some mean, median or mode on a graph.

Understand that if you don’t strive for excellence in your life’s endeavours, you risk not just regressing to the average but falling below others who are striving for excellence.

There are several principles we can adopt to move beyond mediocrity and pursue excellence in any domain. Embrace a growth mindset and move out of your comfort zone. Adopt a three-pronged approach of high standards, big ambitions and manageable expectations. Refrain from conforming to the expectations of wider society if they’re not aligned with your natural inclinations and values. Surround yourself with a community of excellent likeminded individuals whose own standards rub off on you.

Don’t settle for mediocrity; pursue your extraordinary potential, embrace your uniqueness and strive for excellence.

If you like this post, please share it on social media or with someone who’ll benefit from it. It’s also worth subscribing to my free (and un-annoying) newsletter for more inspiration and insights on personal growth, lifestyle design and all things related to relocation, travel and nomadism in an ever-changing world.

Don't Settle For Mediocrity Zone