Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them. – Henry David Thoreau
If there is one thing that separates the few who reach excellence, from the masses that wallow in mediocrity, it is this: A willingness to go beyond one’s limitations, by operating outside a level of safety and comfort.
Your Mediocre Zone
Take this illustration for example. The center circle represents you, and the inner area is your present level of comfort. No extra amount of effort is required to stay there. This is your safe haven, your bad habits, those day-to-day ruts, the place of predictability and familiarity…your mediocre zone.
Beyond this circle lies the level of excellence. This is the area in which you know you can operate, however…it’s uncomfortable. It’s getting up at 5am every morning, giving up those cigarettes, choosing the apple over the ice-cream, starting that business you’ve always dreamed of.
Your current situation in life is the direct result of your daily decisions to operate inside or outside of the mediocre zone. The time you wake up, your degree of health, the habits you’ve formed, the job that you’ve taken, the relationships that you’re in. Each of these is the by-product of the zone you’re willing to function in.
With any endeavor in life, if you want to be successful then you must make the choices that lie beyond mediocrity.
When you make those choices, something interesting happens. Referring to the next illustration, what you previously thought of as your comfort zone has now increased, giving you a broader and new perspective on what your limitations are.
With time, this larger area will become your new mediocre zone and what was previously difficult now becomes easy. Then, the whole cycle repeats itself.
I’ve seen this principle at work so many times in my life. One example is with long-distance running. Having been a gymnast, my body type seems better adapted to running short all-out sprints than running long distances, however it’s been a recent goal of mine to run a marathon.
Recently, my mediocre zone allowed me to comfortably run 1 mile. Nevertheless, by making those daily decisions in entering the zone of excellence, I was able to work up to a 5K race. Now being close to a half-marathon, 5K has become my new mediocre zone.
Another example is with reading. I remember in my childhood that after school my parents would take me to a special reading institute that helped kids with reading disabilities. It must have done something, because as difficult as it was for me, reading became a passion of mine. I’ve constantly pushed myself beyond my previous limits to the point where today I read about a book a week. With this new Photo Reading program I want to try, I hope to bring that number up to a book a day.
If you want greatness in your life, it is not won within the circle of mediocrity. You need to push beyond this area into the level of excellence. You know the difference between what’s comfortable and what requires you to stretch. So stretch! Pick something, anything, that you want to change about yourself and everyday make those decisions that will push you into living a life of passion and excellence.
Remember that this is a lifelong process. Don’t live a life of quiet desperation. Sing your song while you still have life to sing it!