Professional Development

Why it’s okay to just be average

Written by Michael Hoon

There’s so much pressure in the business world to be at the top of your field, to be the best, to be number one. The reality is that only one person can ever be the best, and there’s only one number one. That means that most of us will have to settle for not being best, and a great deal of us will also have to get used to being nothing more than … well … average.

So what? There’s nothing wrong with not being a superhero. There’s nothing wrong with simply being human, being just fine. Still, resigning yourself to the average bin can be very difficult after years of pressure to be the best and running yourself ragged to achieve unrealistic goals. Don’t bury your face in your pillow and start weeping yet, though. Perhaps the following will help you to feel better about your fabulously normal averageness.

You can still make a difference in people’s lives

So you’ve come to accept that you’ll never be the CEO. You won’t get a huge, impressive promotion or raise any time soon—you won’t even get a spiffy new title. But consider this: There is more to working than lofty goals, advancement, and yes, even big paychecks. Try to find fulfillment in areas of your work that doesn’t depend on external validation or recognition.

Does your work involve helping others? You might be helping people accomplish life-changing goals, such as finding the perfect house or paying off their student loans—or less critical ones, such as selecting a well-fitting skirt or getting someone in another department a data spreadsheet on time. Try to draw some joy from being a benefit to people—you are surely much appreciated if you make someone’s life even a little easier. Take pleasure in giving a co-worker a much-needed assist.

Maybe you can even figure out how your work can have a positive impact on the world outside the walls of your office. Try encouraging your employer to be more socially responsible by eliminating waste or improving diversity in hiring practices. Your boss may not award you with a promotion for your efforts, but they may still heed your suggestions and make valuable changes to the company that could be more rewarding than any promotion.

Find fulfillment during off the clock

One of the reasons there is so much pressure to strive for greatness at work is that our society places so much importance on our roles as workers. Think about it. When you meet someone new and that person asks you what you do, do you respond with how you spend your downtime or do you give your job description? Most people would probably answer by explaining how they earn a living. But your work does not have to define who you are or “what you do.” Sometimes a job is just a way to earn a living, and that is perfectly fine.

You may be average at work, but you can be extraordinary in your free time by pursuing the things that make you feel truly fulfilled. Some people find fulfillment by being creative: writing, playing music, painting, etc. Some enrich their lives by learning new things, so they spend their time outside of work taking classes without any intention to profit from what they learn. Some find great joy in their relationships and spend their evenings and weekends bonding with significant others, friends, and family members. Others may find that nothing brings more meaning to their lives than charitable endeavors. Try volunteering for a worthy cause or campaigning for a political candidate you believe will make the world a better place. You may find that doing so can be far more fulfilling than anything you could ever achieve at your 9-to-5.

The point of your life is not to earn judgment and bonus points. As long as you act with kindness and aim to do the best you can in every situation, you can be proud of yourself every day—even if your star doesn’t shine the brightest of everyone around you.

About the author

Michael Hoon