Average is Your Path to Richness

imagesIt wasn’t that long ago that my best friend and I made a secret pact.  What we whispered to each other we didn’t dare share with anyone else.  We couldn’t let on that what we fought so hard for was no longer in our sights.  When we started out we bought the 1980s American Woman’s Dream but somewhere along the way started thinking about a refund – or at least a discount.  Back then we rocked our navy blue suits.  We pumped the pumps, fought the good fight, burped our babies, parented our parents, supported our spouses, etc., etc.   We were also breaking.  We slumped  in to bed  with exhausting to-do lists simmering in a pot that would boil over every night at 3 AM.

I can’t remember who said it first, Lisa (my best friend) or I.  But the other quickly agreed.  “I think we need to strive to be average.”  What a big, fat, disappointing life moment.  After all the battles, successes, joys and failures, our AHA was so anti-climactic.  But the words fell on us with a comfortable sigh.  There was a twinkling idea that average effort could perhaps magically translate in to more.  So we made our pact to strive for average.

I’m not sure about Lisa (perhaps she’ll post her thoughts here) but I tiptoed in to this new idea.  I started with work boundaries.  I decided to “sneak” in to work an hour later than usual and leave promptly at 5:15.  The first day it felt as if a spotlight followed me down the hall and only clicked off once I turned on my computer.  But I did it, and kept doing it.  After a while it didn’t feel like sneaking.  I began to actually feel better – not racing in and not racing home.  I started to think that maybe there was something to this average idea.

So I expanded my averageness.  I skipped a meeting.  I left everything at work on Friday.   I missed my son’s baseball game.  I gave up attempting to commune with my at-home Mom neighbors.   I let voice mail do some of my dirty work.  I accepted the results.

And as I snuck around, dodging demands here and there, something miraculous happened.  No one noticed.  I don’t mean that no one noticed that something miraculous happened.  I mean that all these brave new boundaries I forged went by completely unnoticed.  My secret, my bold new way of living was of no consequence to those around me.  The earth kept spinning.

I realized I defined exceptional in a warped way.  My definition incorporated a meaningless idea of contribution from time and touch points.  Spreading myself thin, being everywhere, for everyone, did nothing to enrich what I wanted to give to my many worlds.

My new efforts striving for average  actually reflected budding intentionality.  I learned to choose what got my all and what got my “eh- that’s good enough”.

A few days ago, Lisa sent me an article on the twelve things that successful women do differently (12 Things).   Number 2:  “They don’t expect perfection — of themselves or those around them.”   So our secret pact is now public domain.  Shout it from the rooftops.   “Strive for good enough, where good enough is good enough.”

I hope you all enjoy this holiday season with intentional exceptional moments and lots and lots of “good enough”.

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3 Responses to Average is Your Path to Richness

  1. Lisa says:

    Hooray – the secret is out! This is true and was a momentous event in my life, too. I still remember clearly the moment we said it, as we were having coffee together (over the phone) on a Saturday morning. It was/is hard to put into practice, but I think I’ve mastered it: do a good enough job to satisfy that ‘need to accomplish something well’ feeling, but fly under the radar. Don’t get noticed for doing anything too well or promotional opportunities may come your way which you don’t want to have to turn down. I live a more in-the-moment, flexible and happier life now, and pursue challenges that make ME satisfied and proud of myself. I’m content enough with my job, but it IS a job, not a career. I’m already looking for things to do in my future which will fulfill my passions (after I get my twins through college). I’m glad you brought this up, Deb, as it has been key to getting rid of lots of stress and guilt in my life. Happy Thanksgiving to all!

    • Sue Johnson says:

      I loved reading this. I, too, decided to let go a little almost two years ago in the exact same way and it has made a big difference in my life. After being the gerbil on the wheel for 30 years, ratcheting back to a 10 hour day not a 12 hour day was a hard, but necessary thing to do for myself. Any you’re right – no one noticed. The work was still there the same way the next day. What I got back was time to exercise and time to breathe. And today, the best part is that I’ve gotten so good at making the Thanksgiving meal that it’s actually fun! Gobble Gobble!

  2. Rita Durant says:

    Ahhh… Love this. In systems thinking, optimizing sub part makes a mess of the whole. Better to create space to breathe and play, love and enjoy this morning’s life’s logistics guidance. Peace and love!

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