"When you reach for the stars you may not quite get one, but you won't come up with a handful of mud either." – Leo Burnett
Every now and then, I meet people who have an interesting story that their lives are "pretty good." When I say I find this interesting, I mean more that I'm interested in what has them stop themselves from wanting more than "good enough." As for the story itself, it's pretty boring, really. Kind of short. The plot doesn't really hook me much if the protagonist decides against participating in the storyline.
I don't doubt that their lives are, in fact, pretty good: These are people who are in "good" relationships, "good" jobs and seem, in general, to be pretty content, and feel, might I say, pretty "good." Unlike the atmosphere of dissatisfaction that permeates the media- and-consumer-based world in which we live, they aren't needing or wanting for much, not wishing for grand[er] adventures. The former is refreshing; It's this latter thing that baffles me.
These are not necessarily people who have not achieved, either. These are supremely capable, intelligent and potentially powerful people who I believe could move mountains, and they are okay with just being okay. When asked to rate their lives on a scale of one to ten, they give it a solid seven.
Seven. Seven out of ten.
That means that their life (the only life they will get) is seventy percent awesome. They're literally leaving room on their scale for more, but they're not interested in bumping their average up. I don't get it. Is it the tempering of expectations and the expression of dreams and desires for fear of disappointment? A fear that aiming for a ten, or heck, even an eight-point-five, would somehow land them at a six? Or is it a concern with seeming selfish? Wanting more than they should want? According to whom?
It fascinates me.
I mean, if you're in a good relationship, that's terrific. Really. But, what if it could be better? What if it went from "pretty good" to amazing? Spectacularly impassioned, even. If you're in a good job, imagine if you were passionate in a role that was challenging, fun, inspiring and fulfilling?
I mean, why not? Let me tell you: Passion is not a seven out of ten and that's okay. It might be a seven right now, but with an eye to ten or even twelve, blowing the end off that scale.
But I'm not talking about materialism here. I'm talking about our lives. The only ones we have. I'm talking about creating fulfilling lives that build on each experience, each challenge, enriching us and therefore the world around us.
Rather than look to our lives and our relationships as opportunities to grow, we fill our desire for more by buying more stuff we don't need and eating more food we don't calorically require, while casting a blind eye on our hearts' desires.
Calling seven out of ten "good enough" and making mediocre the new gold standard leaves us with nowhere to go, nowhere to grow, in ways and in places where it really matters.
See, people need to grow. We find it fulfilling to try new things and reach new ground. We are, after all, a species that has built incredible monuments throughout our history, charted and occupied nearly every corner of this planet, and even sent people off of it to the moon, because the drive to meet new challenges is an innate force. That is why we have pyramids. Standing stone henges. Bridges across impossible ravines. Computers that do more with less and submarines that travel to unimaginable depths, understanding of molecular science — Humanity's innate yearning to develop and grow seems boundless, at least on a broader level.
Why then, when it comes to our individual growth, do we sit with dissatisfaction until it no longer seems uncomfortable and we've forgotten that our legs and our dreams have fallen asleep? Why do we sit in our comfort zones, unmoving, not even to just wriggle our toes in the realm of possibility, of what may be, until our drive for adventure and satisfaction have atrophied, along with our life's purpose?
We know that sitting for long periods, as many in the workforce do, is killing us. I would assert that sitting in our "good enough" is doing the same: It is killing our spirit. It is snuffing out our light and our innermost desires to shine our lights around us in a bigger and brighter arc, to find, or better yet, create, satisfaction.
I'm referring here, to true satisfaction and not just complacency, which is I think what many of us mistakenly believe are synonyms. They are not. They are not the same thing. I even checked, in a dictionary.
Believe me, I get it: From time to time, I find myself wondering if perhaps life would've been easier if I had lower expectations. If I didn't feel compelled to try so hard, to strive, to follow my dreams. Or if my dreams were just a little less, I don't know, dreamy feeling sometimes.
But that's not who I am, not what I was made for, not what I'm here to do. And I don't believe it's who you are, either.
What would you do if you weren't afraid to lose something? If you weren't afraid to fail? If what you have is good, what would you lose if you wanted to make it even better?
Better yet, what might you gain? Instead of the fear of losing, what about the possibility of what you might win?