January 19, 2020

An Average Life

Reach for the stars!
Set goals!
Raise the bar!
Be your best self!
Have an impact!
You can do it!

Can someone please turn down the volume?

Perhaps it’s my recent mood, but frankly, I’m tired of the constant message stream: work harder, improve, compete, build, strive and acquire. “Make your life count!” they say. Well, if I have to do all that to “count,” I’m bowing out. Right. Freaking. Now.

In my twenties and thirties, I was enamoured with the idea of excellence which, in my youthful mind, translated to money, power and fame. I drank the Kool-Aid and believed that if I didn’t achieve at least 2 out of the 3, I was at best, irrelevant, at worst, a failure.

Over the years, many things led to a change in my viewpoint, one of the big ones being my mental health struggles. I figured out that it’s hard to do the work required for money, power and fame when you can hardly peel yourself off the bed or get your backside out the door. I learned being able to show up every day can, in itself, be a noteworthy achievement. I also realized that there are a lot of people who enjoy the outward trappings of “success” yet are dying on the inside.

There’s a term called hedonic adaptation which means that humans have a tendency to quickly adapt to major positive or negative life events or changes and then return to their base level of happiness. Following this logic, it’s likely that as we achieve more, there’s a tendency for our expectations to rise accordingly, leaving us feeling dissatisfied.

So you bought the bigger house and flashier car, got the promotion, and gained additional status in the community. If that’s the case, I’m happy for you. You likely worked hard to get there. However, after the metaphorical sex flush disappears, you’re right back to your base line, more often than not yearning for more.

I’m the first to raise my hand: Guilty! But thankfully, I began questioning “younger me” beliefs and priorities and started to consider alternatives.

Do I really need to:

  • Climb further up the career ladder?
  • Be the Canadian Oprah?
  • Publish a best-seller?
  • Achieve 18% body fat?
  • Sell out the arena with my motivational speeches?
  • Look 25 when I’m 52?

Believe me, I’ve entertained all these possibilities; however, these things take a lot of time, energy, and often, money. Plus, constant striving leaves me miserable and exhausted.

I’ve reached the point in my life where I’m happy to:

  • Work normal hours and not take on more responsibility.
  • Be myself.
  • Keep writing this blog and work on my memoir (which may never sell but that’s not my driver).
  • Work on staying strong and healthy.
  • Share my experiences one on one and in small groups.
  • Begin accepting the realities of aging.

What would happen if you and I dared to love ourselves as we are in this moment? I’m not suggesting that we get stagnant or set in our ways. It’s good to be open to possibility and new opportunities. We should work on behaviours that undermine our health and happiness. However, it’s advisable to be wary of certain gurus and marketing schemes that promise a life beyond our wildest dreams…usually with a significant fee involved.

I’m fortunate. I have a comfortable lifestyle. However, I’m not a millionaire nor have I reached the upper echelons of power or fame. Those things no longer resonate with me.

I don’t want to keep up with society’s frantic pace or add more stress to my life. I simply don’t have the energy or stamina. I’m done with constant demands and pressure. I prefer to focus on a slower, simpler life with less drama. Life has a lot of crazy moments, but as much as possible, I’m choosing the calm space in between.

I no longer have anything to prove. I don’t need to stand out. I’ve finally realized that an average life is good enough for me.

(Parting Thought: The multi-billion dollar self-improvement industry often tries to make us believe “average” is wrong and that if you settle for that, you’re a failure. If you don’t like where you stand in life, by all means, do something about it. However, making us believe we are “lacking” or “not good enough” is big business which profits from our lack of self-love and self-acceptance.)