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Avoiding Mediocrity: Do You Dare to Be Different?

Avoiding Mediocrity: Do You Dare to Be Different?
Being different

    Following the herd is a sure way to mediocrity.
    Patti Wilson

    I don’t know about you, but one of the things I’m afraid most in life is mediocrity. For me, life is too precious to be lived in mediocrity. Life is a golden opportunity, and we should use it as good as we can. Living in mediocrity means we do not use the opportunity as good as we should.

    Unfortunately, many people are trapped in mediocrity. I believe one of the main reasons is they do not dare to be different. You need to be different if you want to be above the average. The question is:

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    Do you dare to be different?

    This question might not be easy to answer, but how you answer it will make the difference between excellence and mediocrity.

    Here are some more specific questions to help you check yourself and take actions:

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    1. Do you have a dream?

    This is the first question you should ask yourself. I believe one of the main reasons people just follow the herd is they don’t have a dream. If there is nothing to pursue then why bother being different?

    But a dream is what sets you above the average. Not having a dream means going to mediocrity on autopilot.

    If your answer for this first question is “no” then start searching. I’m sure you have a dream deep inside of you. It might be something from your childhood. Maybe for long time you have been too busy to let the little voice of your dream be heard. This is the right time to heed that little voice.

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    If you have found your dream, the next question is whether or not you have the courage to follow it. Questions two through five will deal with that.

    2. Are you doing what you want or what you should?

    There are often implicit “rules” about what someone should do in a particular situation. For example, when there are two job opportunities, the “rule” says that you should take the one with higher pay.

    But is that what you want? I mean, does it help you achieve your dream? Maybe the job with less pay will help you achieve your dream while the one with higher pay doesn’t. Do you have the courage to be different and follow your dream?

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    3. Do you worry more about being loved than being what you love?

    Another reason why we don’t dare to be different is because we are trying to meet other people’s expectations. We often worry more about what other people say than about what matters to us. But living someone else’s life is a bad way to live your life. Why should you lose opportunity just because of what other people say?

    4. Do you choose what is safe rather than what is right?

    Maybe you are not trying to meet other people’s expectation. Maybe you just don’t want to take risks and therefore you choose to play safe. But this is exactly what many old people regret. When they were asked in a study about what they regretted most and what they would do differently, most of them answered: “I wish I had risked more.” Don’t let the same regret happen to you.

    5. If you had only six months left to live, would you do what you are doing now?

    You can only answer “yes” to this question if what you are doing matters to you. Doing what matters to you is a sure way to excellence since you will do it with all your heart. But you need the courage to be different and follow your heart. Do you have it? I hope your answer is yes. Life is too precious to be lived in mediocrity.

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    Last Updated on July 17, 2019

    The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

    The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

    What happens in our heads when we set goals?

    Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

    Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

    According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

    Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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    Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

    Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

    The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

    Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

    So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

    Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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    One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

    Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

    Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

    The Neurology of Ownership

    Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

    In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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    But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

    This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

    Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

    The Upshot for Goal-Setters

    So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

    On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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    It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

    On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

    But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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    Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

    Reference

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