Nobody wants to be ordinary, average, mediocre or just simply one of the crowd.
But a surprising number of people choose to be just that. Going through life with your head in the sand is no way to live an authentic life.
So if you’re feeling down in the dumps (and who isn’t during this longer-than-expected world-wide pandemic?) and don’t know where to start, here are some things you can do immediately to start rising up again.
Practice going from average to great
A survey was once conducted that asked people whether they would be willing to travel across a bridge that was designed and built by the ‘average engineer’. The majority indicated that they would be reluctant to do so.
So what does it take to move from average to great?
Psychologist Anders Ericsson classified (with the help of tutors) students at Berlin’s elite Academy of Music into three groups.
The first group were students deemed to be not good enough to play professionally. The second group were considered to be able to make it as a professional musician, and the third group were thought to have the potential to be world-class musicians.
Ericsson discovered that the key single factor that correlated with how successful they became were the number of hours of practice they had done over their lifetime. This ranged from 4,000 hours in the first group to around 10,000 hours in the third group.
So practice makes permanent. The more you practice something, the better you will be at it. Of course, tutors could have also given more attention to the better performers, but ‘natural talent’ didn’t differentiate. It came back to the focus and ‘deliberate practice’ involved.
How focused are you on what you would like to be better at?
Connect with people whom you professionally admire
Author of Launch Your Career: How Any Student Can Create Relationships with Professionals, Sean O’Keefe, in partnership with The Career Leadership Collective, says there are good reasons a professional in their field would want to meet students or graduates.
- Paying it forward. Professionals are enthusiastic about repaying the support they received in their younger years.
- Empathy towards your situation. Professionals remember what is was like to be a student with no job and few to no connections.
- They find it flattering that you want to learn from them. By reaching out, you are communicating that their experience is valuable.
- They like to talk about themselves. Most people enjoy talking about themselves and their career journey.
- They often look for future talent. Professionals may be involved, or know other managers who are, looking to recruit people into roles at their organisations.
Connecting with people in the field you want to work in is not just for students and graduates. Anyone can build a valuable network by spending time cultivating worthwhile professional relationships.
LinkedIn is a great platform for doing this. You can message an individual directly and arrange to have a face-to-face or video conferencing meet up.
The worldwide pandemic has created an environment of fear as coronavirus numbers have escalated sharply in some countries, and have disrupted many of the things in life we take for granted, such as the way we shop, socialise and work.
How we experience our life circumstances is a choice, according to author of Embracing Uncertainty, Susan Jeffers.
“We can choose to live in a state of worry about all the uncertainty,” she says, “or we can choose to live with a sense of peace and possibility.”
It has been said that with the pandemic, the external environment has become turbulent, but each of us is experiencing it differently. We are in the same ocean, but we’re all sailing on different boats.
Build courage by nurturing your social connections, changing your negative self-talk, and looking to the more distant future for a positive vision of your destiny.
Victor Perton is the founder and Chief Optimism Officer at The Centre for Optimism set up in Australia to bring optimism to people from all walks of life and in business.
I met him when I was invited onto a podcast about building resilience during the pandemic. He makes it a practice to ask everyone he meets, “What makes you optimistic?” The question can put you on the spot, but when you think hard about it, you will find reasons to be optimistic.
Sonya Lyubomirsky, professor of psychology at the University of California, has concluded through her research that happy employees:
- are more productive
- less likely to experience job burnout
- have less time off sick
- are more likely to be successful as a leader
- have higher levels of creativity
- have higher levels of resilience
So what makes you optimistic?
Finally, be yourself. Those who try to become someone or something other than their authentic selves will find life difficult.
According to the author of The Gifts of Imperfection, Brene Brown, authenticity “is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are.”
Choosing authenticity, she says, means:
- cultivating the courage to be imperfect, to set boundaries, and to allow ourselves to be vulnerable;
- exercising the compassion that comes from knowing that we are all made of strength and struggle; and
- nurturing the connection and sense of belonging that can only happen when we believe we are strong enough
The best way to shift from ordinary to extraordinary is to drip feed some new habits into your life everyday with some conscious attention. That way you will steadily practice becoming all you want to and deserve to become.