I apologize if anyone finds this title offensive, but I imagine anyone reading this is an adult. This is just what I thought of as I recently started seeing GNC’s new “Beat Average” slogan. I’m not at all advertising GNC, but the statement resonated with me so I decided to write about it.
Sure, average is “good enough” for some people, or they’re perfectly happy being average. Getting C’s in school, being comfortable in a job with little opportunity for advancement, making average income, and so forth- that’s enough for some people. And that’s ok. I think it’s a great thing to be content in life and to be happy with what you have.
On the other hand, many are not satisfied with being average. They want to achieve, to accomplish things, and even if doing very well, they are always aiming higher. Whether you have a Type A personality or just want more out of life, there is nothing wrong with that, either. When it comes down to it, though, I think most people want something out of life than what they have now- more money, more time for fun or relaxation, or more time to see friends or family.
You can probably guess by the title of this post which group I identify more with, and most of my patients, friends, and family tend to fall into this category as well. No matter what you identify with, this is a large part of your personality. On the extreme end of the achievement mindset, you have people who never seem to be satisfied. No matter what they have, it’s not enough. They’re always comparing themselves to others and always wishing for more. It could manifest as compulsive buying, living above your means, often changing jobs, or just thinking the grass is always greener on the other side. I have heard this referred to as wanting mind. I’m not at all advocating for this, but I am saying that to want to accomplish things and to strive to do better is totally ok.
So how do you “beat average”? In my experience, as I referenced in a recent post, you have to be willing to do the things you just don’t want to do. This means making a commitment to being more disciplined, although what this looks like will depend on what your goals are. You may want to exercise more, eat better, save more money, get more done at work, or be a better parent to your children. You might want to be more calm and less reactive, more organized, or more at peace with yourself.
Thinking about this idea, I thought about how I could apply it more consistently in my own life. I came up with some strategies I thought I would share. They may not all work for all people, but maybe it will give you something to think about.
1. Get organized: Get your things ready the night before (lunch, clothes, work, etc.); wake up in enough time; think about your day before you get started; make a to-do list (and stick to it) and re-evaluate at the end of the day; use a calendar or planner (can be paper or electronic, as in a smartphone); Spend 10 minutes in the morning and at night organizing your things, or your first 5-10 minutes at work doing the same. Note: You will NEVER be completely organized, which leads to discouragement for some people. Recognize that it’s a process and some days will be easier than others. The point is that you can’t just fly by the seat of your pants and be super productive or get all of the things you want out of life. There just aren’t enough hours in the day.
2. Have goals: Sure, most of us have some idea of what we want to do with our lives, but sometimes these are vague ideas at best, and consequently, not often accomplished. “Above average” people always have goals. Daily goals, weekly goals, yearly goals, and so on. Think about what you want to accomplish, set goals, and work toward them. And always be re-evaluating. A post I did recently referenced SMART goals, which I highly recommend if you want to approach it in a more systematic way (and have a better chance of success!).
3. The 5 More Rule: This could be “a thing” already, but it came to my mind this week. When you want to quit or give up, tell yourself, “Five more”. This could mean 5 more minutes of working out, walking, or doing work. It could mean 5 more pushups, TPS reports (pardon the Office Space reference), grading 5 more tests, or putting $5 more in the bank than you had planned on. This may seem insignificant, but if you do this consistently, it could lead to big results. The effect over a week, a month, or a year could be very significant.
4. Do it now: When you think to put something off, but you could conceivably do it now, do it now. Send that e-mail or make the phone call you don’t feel like making, do the dishes when you notice the sink is full, or clean up that pile of papers on your desk. If you really don’t have the time, that’s fine, but more often I think “not having time” is an excuse we make to procrastinate.
5. Get enough sleep: For many of us, sleep tends to take a back seat to most other activities. This is the case for me, when I have had a long day at work, I come home and want to see the family, and then 9 or 10:00 rolls around and I either have work to do or I want to relax and catch an hour of TV. I’m either not tired yet, or feel like I need the time for either work or relaxation. Think about how much sleep you need (to function well). This varies, but for many adults this is 7-8 hours a night. Have an ideal bedtime that you at least try to stick to on most nights. For me, this is 10pm. I don’t always make it, but I think keeping this in mind stops me from habitually staying up until 11 or 12:00. If I do stay up too late, I try not to wake up too early the next day. Over the years I have found that it pays to get enough sleep- to feel good the next day, to be in a better mood, and to be more productive. You can’t (realistically) “burn the candle at both ends”, as they say. I learned about a concept called sleep debt a few years ago when I was teaching psychology. Basically, when we undersleep, we accumulate sleep debt, which we must “repay” by catching up on the sleep we need.
6. Practice regular self-care: This depends on what you like to do and what benefits you the most in terms of how you feel. For some people it’s exercise, spending time outside, being alone, or just having some time where they don’t have to think too much. Like sleep, though, this is another area that tends to suffer. If you make it a priority, though, you will likely be happier, healthier, and more productive. Remember the saying, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”? It’s definitely true, so keep that in mind.
This is not a comprehensive list, and you certainly need to do what works for you if you want to achieve more in your life. But in my experience, these are strategies that can help you to accomplish more and to feel more successful. It’s not always easy, though. If you find this to be a “losing battle” and not something you can do on your own, I would recommend talking with a professional such as a psychologist. This can help you to define your goals, address any blocks to achieving them, and set in motion a realistic plan to move forward. Psychologists, of course, also help people to address more serious issues, like depression, anxiety, or difficult life circumstances. For a referral, click here or here.
Dr. Jesse Matthews is a licensed psychologist in private practice in Chester Springs, PA. He helps people of all ages to address many kinds of issues. You can view his Psychology Today profile here. For any questions or to arrange an appointment, please contact him at 610-482-4496 or firstname.lastname@example.org.