Not so long ago striving for the top of the tree, the pinnacle of the career ladder or stand out entrepreneurial success was the norm. It was expected to want more, do better, make more money. We could be whatever we wanted to be, and if you worked hard enough success would follow. Then Covid hit, causing many of us to push the pause button, rethink our lives and reassess the way we lived. Overnight the constant grind didn’t seem quite so appealing and a slower pace of life emerged, at least for a time.
The pandemic has receded, and life has mostly returned to normal but there is a lot to be said for sitting back and smelling the roses. Whisper it quietly but does happiness and contentment really lie in constantly pushing forward, relentlessly pursuing the next big thing? Or could we be just as happy enjoying the small things in life? The everyday mundanities, the little things, the mediocrity?
For a long time now there has been this pervasive start-up culture that we’re not doing ourselves justice if we’re not pushing to the max and really stretching ourselves. But if happiness is solely routed in the pursuit of roaring success, then inevitably many of us are setting ourselves up for failure.
Humans are complex beings and success comes in many forms. For some it will be that inexorable drive to the top – it’s that and only that which defines them and makes them who they are. But for others, accepting where they are in life and enjoying what they have right now is in itself a form of success. It can also alleviate a lot of anxiety and leave us feeling happier and more balanced.
It seems I’m not alone in thinking this. Increasing numbers of professionals are taking their foot off the gas of their careers to pour their energy into the things they really love. Far from the world collapsing around them, people are beginning to realise they can enjoy a slower existence and still feel fulfilled.
It all boils down to finding joy in the mundane, embracing the mediocre and revelling in every element of your life, not just the ones that traditionally define success. Who says it is wrong to prefer taking an upholstery course over chasing your next promotion? Or spending hours in the garden planting seeds in place of hours in the office impressing your boss?
Now before the naysayers accuse me of dumbing down and giving up, let me stress I am not. Success is different for each and every one of us, just as mediocrity is different too. For some nothing but the top spot will suffice, for others they will find joy in not reaching it, in accepting what they’ve achieved and saying that’s enough for me.
Mediocrity’s not a bad word either, it just needs redefining with a move away from an all-or-nothing mentality to one which is kinder and more nourishing for our souls. Mediocrity is the opposite of capitalist culture where we are constantly striving for more, to improve the status quo. But by settling for mediocrity where you put in the least amount of effort you need to be content then maybe just maybe, we’d all be a little bit happier.
After an incredible but insanely busy Christmas, I have been taking some much-needed time off – enjoying the garden, reading the odd novel and even dusting off my sewing machine to knock up some trousers and cushions. And you know what? Things haven’t imploded, they haven’t fallen apart, everything has carried on as normal. I feel better for it, my family definitely feels better for having more of me and so does my partner who feels like he has me back.
I will probably want to jump back into business in the coming weeks and months because I do love a challenge. But I have also come to accept that I am pretty happy where I am and if I don’t reach the all the goals I originally planned then so be it.
It isn’t wrong to settle for mediocrity.It isn’t wrong to step back from the grind and just enjoy where we’re at. It isn’t wrong to just stop.
Written by Fay Millar – Gingerbread World