How To Define Success In A Small, Mediocre Life


Are you tired?

I was. Tired to the point of exhaustion. Not physically, but mentally, emotionally. It’s the treadmill of life in 2017. The relentless rat-race to keep up with the Joneses and strive for success. To feel validated. That elusive striving for the holy grail of happiness through articles titled ‘How to find your happy’ or ’17 ways to get the happy life you’ve always wanted.’
If it were that easy, we’d all be happy, right? We’d all know the secret to a successful and happy life and be frolicking around without a care in the world, canyon size smiles slapped on our faces.

But it’s not that simple. And we’re all tired from chasing our tails around, and around, and around.

But what if you don’t need to aim for a big, successful life to be happy? What if you can find a sense of joy, a calm contentment in a small life?

I read an article the other day that got a lot of social media traction. It was by Krista O’Reilly, titled: “What if all I want is a mediocre life?” In the post Krista talks about desiring a slow, simple life at a pace set by herself. Krista was once at the crossroads of exhaustion too. Then she decided, enough was enough. She looked within and asked herself what she really wanted, what mattered to her. And that was, in her words “a quiet, beautiful, peaceful, mediocre life.” Mediocre gives the impression of not good enough, but for Krista her version of mediocre is enough.

For me, I rather call it a content life. A beautiful, peaceful, content life. But they are just words. Call it what you want. The important factor is that it’s yours.

But how do you live a fulfilling, deliberate life, that is mediocre, or content?

How do you define success within those constraints? After all, isn’t success more about how others see you, how society places you within the boxes of ‘status’ and ‘wealth’?

I’m calling bullocks on that.

Success can be anything you want it to be. And that doesn’t have to mean outward success where others think of you in the elite status of ‘successful’ by what your life outwardly shows.

I’m no longer defining myself by those antiquated society values of status and wealth. Success for me lies in a content, small life, driven by internal forces. An internal hunger for self-contentment. And to reach that point you need to define your values.

One of my very most favorite quotes comes from C.S. Lewis:

“Don’t let your happiness depend on something you may lose.”

Isn’t that what we do? We place our happiness on materialistic things. Objects of status. Jobs, houses, cars, clothes, jewelry, a number on the scales, relationships – all things which at any moment can be taken from us for infinite reasons.

I’ll let you in on a secret – happiness isn’t something to be obtained. It isn’t defined by status, wealth, or how much you weigh. Happiness is an emotion. A feeling. Something that can come and go in waves. Something in which sometimes we can control, other times we can’t.

Contentment, on the other hand, is different.

It’s a state that encompasses all emotions. Everything isn’t always roses. There’s ups and downs, highs and lows. But contentment feels as if you are riding the wave gently, not thrashing about towed under by rips of emotion. Contentment allows you to lean in when you need to, and sit back when you can.

Contentment is life without blinkers.

And success in a content, deliberate life is one that is defined not only by your values, but in the fulfillment inherent in those values.

My values are narrow, my goals even more so. It’s simplifying, a decluttering if you will, of what’s important. And once I was able to cut those values back to the barest of minimums, I was able to feel calm and content.

I can’t say it was initially a deliberate action to step off the mouse-wheel, more of gradual process that became deliberate in nature once my self-confidence grew. Once I knew I was on the right track.

I no longer live for external validation and recognition of success. Striving for the perfect grades, the high-paying, respected job. Striving for success that is based solely on status and financial reward. Nope, it doesn’t fulfill me.

I no longer need to live for the perfect magazine-worthy house, the luxury prestige car, the walk-in-wardrobe and shoe drawers, or the expensive jewelry. And gone are the days striving to be the perfect mother. The crafty mum. The patient mum. The healthy sugar-free mum. The volunteer mum. The supermum.

No longer do I strive for this outward recognition of success that can be easily quantified by onlookers. No longer do I strive to impress, trying to be who, and what box society can neatly package me into.

No longer do I have to fight against my true self.

My values provide me with all the success I need. Success on a small, mediocre scale. Success that isn’t obvious from an outsider’s viewpoint, but from where I stand it looks pretty darn good to me.