This weekend, I sat (again) at another “professional development” “coaching” seminar. The seminar aimed to “amp us up” and “motivate us” to “write goals” that would “alter our futures” and help us to “dream big”.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I totally support the benefits of goal setting. Setting goals allows us direction, provides us opportunities to expand our knowledge of the world, and encourages us to give meaning to our existences; without goals, we may feel like our lives are too sporadic, we have no direction, no meaning, no purpose.
As I sat at this seminar, I tried my very hardest to drum up one of those big idea, sky-reaching, life-altering goals that they talked about for myself. YES! I want to coach a no-name team that rises up from the ashes and beats all those high profile legacy programs! YES! I want to quit my job right now and open my own business and in ten years from now, be awarded a plaque for biggest influencer! YES! I want to start my non-profit and donate millions of dollars to cancer research! YES! I want to write my own book that become a New York Times’ Bestseller!
We certainly live in a culture in which messages of “REACH FOR THE STARS!”, “AIM HIGH!”, “DREAM BIG!” inundate our psyches. (Like everything else), this probably stems back to our Capitalist nature; we are always in constant competition with each other, and the American Dream, in which we think that “hard work” will breed success and prosperity, and that every American has the opportunity to improve something, innovate an idea, and invent some multi-million dollar object that will take us out of the middle class. And, of course, with social media, we learn that by taking a bunch of pictures of ourselves and posting a bunch of stuff on the Internet may ALSO help us to reach our goals and dreams of becoming rich and famous.
And, when we attend these seminars, we are told that by simply setting these goals, that by creating steps to achieve those goals, and that by paying money to attend the NEXT STEPS of these seminars, we will achieve these big hopes and dreams. We WILL coach that national championship team. We WILL become the next Sheryl Sandburg. We WILL stand on a podium and receive an award for curing cancer. We WILL see our faces on the hot seller table at Barnes & Noble.
But, as I tried to fit myself into each of these goals, and I tried to think backwards of HOW I am going to obtain those goals STARTING TODAY, none of them actually felt authentic. Sure, it would be nice to coach a state championship team, but maybe the team I want to coach is one that is kind to others. It would be nice to quit my job and make a lot of money and afford to go on exquisite vacations, but the job I currently have seems to suffice. I’d love to start a non-profit, but then again, maybe just volunteering for someone else’s non-profit is fine. Writing a New York Times Bestseller would be really awesome, but then again, maybe writing what I want to, when I want to is sufficient enough. In fact, maybe the goal I want to set is to just be mediocre–to live in a mediocre home, to drive a mediocre car, to have mediocre friends, to work a mediocre job.
Of course, setting a goal to just be mediocre seems counterintuitive to the seminar in which I’m sitting in. Don’t I want to be RICH and FAMOUS? Don’t I dream to walk up on a stage when they call my name to receive big, fancy, golden AWARDS? Why WOULDN’T I want to charter out, to do something no one else has EVER done, and to gain 10,000 new InstaGram followers? (As the seminar tells me, “YOU ARE MADE FOR MORE!”).
Maybe I am, but also maybe living a mediocre life is enough for me. Maybe to some people, a mediocre life is the largest accomplishment within itself. For someone who accumulated thousands of dollars in debt, maybe buying a mediocre car means a feat against their own internal programming–that their diligent efforts in working extra jobs, that their sacrifices in extravagant weekend activities, and a re-working of their habits means success (and a less stressful financial future). For someone who just conquered a disease, such as cancer, perhaps buying a mediocre house means another step away from that cancer identity–that opening that suburban garage door to go to a mediocre job every morning means no medical bills that loom, no blood tests or scans to anticipate, no nausea, mouth sores, fatigue. For someone who grew up in an addicted household, perhaps raising a mediocre family means a step towards breaking generations of bad habits, a reversing of familial addictions, a return to normal activities. Maybe for some, mediocrity, in itself, is a feat.
Of course, living this mediocre life–and setting these mediocre goals–means I may never be THE BEST OF THE BEST!, The NUMBER ONE!, the HIGHEST ACHIEVING, MOST NOTEWORTHY!, RECORD BREAKING!. I may never walk across a stage to receive an award for being a trailblazing role model. Someone may never ask to write a book about how I achieved my successes. I may always come home to my mediocre house, in my mediocre car, from my mediocre job, to cook mediocre dinner for my mediocre family. I may always have a mediocre amount of InstaGram followers, may always just travel on a mediocre budget, may always just have mediocre holidays.
But, perhaps living a mediocre life IS, in fact, a REACH FOR THE STARS! AIM HIGH! DREAM BIG! goal within itself.