Why settle for mediocrity
when you can savor the sublime?
I’ve been thinking about mediocrity a lot lately. It seems to me that we’ve slipped into mediocrity as a culture. Now, that may be okay for some people but I’m taking a stand in favor of beauty and excellence.
When I was in graduate school twenty years ago, I had the above quote about mediocrity as part of my email signature. Sometimes people commented about it and told me that it was thought provoking. More often than not, though, I was told that my mantra was refreshing in an era when decorum and excellence were rapidly disappearing. Little did we know then what it would be like today.
I think there are some reasons we slipped into mediocrity:
- We’ve been told to be happy with what we can get. Now, I’m not a conspiracy person but as an educational psychologist I can recognize the subtle lessons all around us. Let’s face it, the middle class in the United States is disappearing due to policies that favor the wealthy. We are trying to make do with paychecks that don’t have the same buying power as they did 20 years ago. When we dare to complain, the response is generally, “at least you have a job.” It is hard to dream big when we have to play it safe so that we can pay our bills.
- We’ve had to focus on price rather than quality of the things we buy. Little by little, our standards regarding quality have whittled away. We now have a “throw away” mentality when things don’t last as long as they used to. We buy what I call “faux food” that comes in microwaveable boxes because we think it is all we can afford to feed our families.
- We keep electing representatives who don’t do their jobs. As of the publishing of this post, Illinois has not had a budget for two years. The fallout of the political posturing is that people are losing their jobs…and, in some cases, their lives. Instead of electing representatives that seek to create “win-win” solutions so that our society can thrive, we keep electing hyper-partisan officials that look for “gotcha moments.”
- We’ve started blaming others for our own mediocrity. I get it. Despite what a lot of self-help gurus want us to believe, life can be hard. During the Great Recession, I was laid off from two different universities due to budget cuts. The Mister’s business went belly up. I wanted to blame other people for our hard times–and I did for a long time. But that victim mentality kept me trapped in my despair. It is hard to dream big when we feel like we have no control over our own destiny.
Overcoming Mediocrity by Savoring the Sublime
The word sublime can be defined as something that is awe inspiring or outstanding. It can also mean taking something inferior and turning it into something of value.
Using that definition, we can overcome mediocrity in our lives by focusing on excellence in all things. Some ways we can achieve excellence are:
- Focusing on goodness and beauty. We have to be very careful about what we let into our minds. Lurid television shows and clickbait websites entice us with the shocking. But after a while, what used to be shocking becomes normalized. We also get sucked into gossip and drama at work or church or the pickup line at our children’s schools. It is hard to focus on beauty when we allow ourselves to be polluted with this kind of negativity.
- Engaging in constant personal development. I used to write in my journal almost every day as part of my spiritual practice. My writing was part prayer asking for what I wanted and part conversation (listening to the still voice within for guidance). I had gotten away from that practice when I allowed myself to wallow in my victim-hood. I started up again a few months ago and it has been transforming. I realized through my journaling that I had slipped into mediocrity instead of always striving for excellence.
- Only eating real food. If you’ve read my blog for any length of time, you know that I’m not a fan of faux food. But, little by little, faux food was making its way into my diet. While I was having lunch with my mentor at a “casual dining” chain, I had an “a-ha” moment as the server was telling me all of the sauces I could get to put on my food. The sauce I chose tasted industrial chemically to me and I wondered what the chicken underneath of it tasted like since it had to be smothered by something created in monster-sized vats. It will take some planning on my part but I know that the closer to nature I get with my eating, the more my body and brain will like me.
- Choosing quality over quantity. I may have to pay more in the short run–or do without–but I know that I will be happier in the long run when I only buy high quality items. My grandparents saved up to buy high quality items. I still use the Bernina that my grandmother bought in 1972 as my primary sewing machine because of the choices they made in favor of quality.
During the post World War II period, we were filled with the “can do” spirit and believed we could accomplish anything we wanted. Heck, we even put a man on the moon!
As a modern retro woman, I am choosing to re-embrace that spirit of excellence that permeated our culture. I refuse to settle for mediocrity when I can savor the sublime.
Your turn: In the comments, please share how you plan on overcoming mediocrity that has crept into your life.
To your fabulously sublime Technicolor life,