By Darrel Hammon
Seven ways to help you climb out of the ruts and aim for excellence.
Some years ago, I had an epiphany. I had thought a ton about mediocrity and decided that I did not want to be “mediocre.” I also discovered that many of us are wading through mediocrity, but we do not desire to be unexceptional. Often we do not know the most effective way to climb out of the ruts that create mediocrity.
Part of the challenge hinges on that we either choose this route or let the route of mediocrity choose us because we fail to do things that vault us toward excellence. Instead of choosing mediocrity, how do we choose excellence instead?
Here are seven ways, one for each day of the week, to help you wade right out of mediocrity:
- Remember why you want to achieve. For most of us, we have always had goals to complete something, large or small, to improve ourselves. Some of us wanted to do something spectacular. Growing and harvesting vegetables are spectacular. Playing a musical instrument is pretty cool. Being able to do lots of things propels us forward to do other things. It is an incredible cycle—doing good reaps other good things. Often, though, life’s challenges provide a barrier, artificial or real, that impedes our progress. Ultimately, we quit trying because it isn’t worth the effort. Truly, it is worth the effort of accomplishing what we set out to do.
- Understand who you really are. All of us have been blessed with powers and abilities from on high. Yes, I believe in a Father in Heaven who gave us abilities to improve upon. The “Parable of the Talents” in the New Testament is pretty bold in its message that we need to improve upon the skills we are given or they will be taken away. Sometimes, we don’t even try to improve these skills and talents. Rather, we turn our heads the other way and never achieve what we are capable of achieving. We lose. Why not win by understanding who we really are?
- Prepare to do and then do hard (challenging) things. What? Do you want me to do hard (challenging) things? Only if you want to progress and grow. Hard things are hard to do because they require huge amounts of effort. But what good thing doesn’t? Ask any Olympians, past or present. Are they where they are today because they were afraid to do hard things? Hardly. They practiced hours each day and for several years before they won a medal. Doing hard things makes us stronger and willing to improve.
- Think positively. Some people may say that power of positive thinking is passé. I think being a positive thinker is still in vogue—or at least should be. Many of our workplaces and many places in the world are choking with negativity, and it is creating a literal moral collapse. People are afraid to even go outside. That’s scary to me that we have lost and continue to lose the good and positive feelings in the world. Think about the positive people you know. Don’t you want to be around them and enjoy their positivity and then let some of it seep into your life? I know I do. There is something contagious about a positive workplace or a person.
- Increase your skills. One of the best ways of climbing out of mediocrity is to increase your skills, both personal and professional. Lots of colleges, particularly community colleges, and universities offer courses and credential programs that enhance our skills. Plus, many companies offer courses and classes to help their employees gain additional skills. The key hinges on taking advantage of those classes. Perhaps, setting goals at the beginning of the year or even talking to your supervisor who can suggest areas you can improve. Most importantly though, is your decision to improve and slog your way out of mediocrity.
- Worry about what you need to do, not what others should do. Too often, we worry too much about others and what they should do when, in reality, we ought to be focused on ourselves. Perhaps, watching others and pointing out to them their shortcomings prevent us from having to think about our own frailties. Focusing on self-improvement doesn’t necessarily mean we forget about others. Rather, serving others often pushes us toward self-improvement without us really thinking about it. Our self-absorption really lulls us into being selfish. Our self-improvement propels us to become selfless.
- Think lofty thoughts and follow through with them. To quit wandering through mediocrity, we actually have to look up once in a while and see the larger picture, make goals to move forward, and then actually do something to help ourselves. It does not do any good to think lofty thoughts and allow them to wallow in the “lofty-thoughts-bucket” until they dissipate into nothingness. If we allow this to occur, then we will be mediocre or worse for our entire lives. And that’s no fun at all.
Many years ago at President Cecil Samuelson’s Inauguration Address at Brigham Young University (BYU), President Gordon B. Hinckley, then the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, remarked; “Mediocrity will never do. You are capable of something better.”
I believe this. I am capable of doing something better, and you are also capable of doing whatever you put your mind to. Are you ready to leave your wanderings through mediocrity and rise above it?
Darrel L. Hammon has been dabbling in writing in a variety of genres since his college days, having published poetry, academic and personal articles/essays, a book titled Completing Graduate School Long Distance (Sage Publications), and a picture book, The Adventures of Bob the Bullfrog: Christmas Beneath a Frozen Lake (Outskirts Press). He also was the editor of the Journal of Adult Education (Mountain Plains Adult Education Association). Most of his essay/article writing has focused on topics about growing up, leadership, self-awareness, motivation, marriage/dating, and educational topics. Some of these articles/essays are in Spanish because Darrel is bilingual in Spanish/English, having lived in Chile, Dominican Republic, and southern California, and having worked with Latino youth and families all of his professional life in higher education. He has two blogs, one for personal writing at http://www.darrelhammon.blogspot.com/ and one for his consulting/life coaching business (http://www.hammonconsults.blogspot.com/). You can listen to a poem titled “Sprucing Up” here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ihTmuOUIAEI.