When clients come to me, it’s because they want change. They may want to reverse a tough situation in their personal or business life; or they may want to remove obstacles holding them back from greater heights of success. Regardless of their purpose, I always ask them three key questions that not only determine if they’re ready for change but to discern if they’re likely to be successful in their efforts.
Here are the 3 questions I ask of potential clients:
- Are you committed to change?
- Is the change you want driven by personal growth and development?
- Are you willing to challenge the status quo?
The first two questions may be no-brainers. But it is the third question that often surprises them. My clients often understand the internal work that must be done, but may forget that when they’ve done that work, it’s going to cause ripple effects in the world around them. But the truth is that my clients not only need to create ripples – often times, they need to create tidal waves – especially in today’s business environment where things are volatile, uncertain, intense and moving fast. To create the impact required by the change they desire, my clients need to question and confront what has been simply accepted so far. They need to challenge the status quo.
Stuck in the Mediocrity Trap
When people don’t challenge the status quo, they often find themselves stuck in mediocrity. And as most of us know, the mediocrity trap keeps us in an automatic robotic phase. You get up in the morning, go to work, come home, eat dinner, watch TV—maybe even workout, and then go to bed only to begin it all again the next morning. People in this phase live their lives by rote. They’re not desperately unhappy enough to change; but they’re bored and dissatisfied with their businesses, jobs and social life. Think “hamster wheel”.
There are other people who want to pursue a goal, but don’t feel it can be achieved. They want to change, but are afraid of failure; so, they don’t do anything except complain. I had a client who wanted to achieve a certain career objective by a particular age. He didn’t think he could do that if he left his current company, but he clearly was unhappy there. He wanted the environment to change without him having to do anything about it. Of course, that didn’t happen, so he just settled and stayed, instead of finding ways to make fulfilling changes.
I want to clarify that just because you may not be taking bold steps toward change, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re stuck in mediocrity. There are plenty of times when you should pause to re-calibrate, especially when you’ve had a lot of change – new job, new family situation, relocation, illness, etc. And if you’re honestly happy with your current development, you’re in a good situation.
However, if you feel fear, uncertainty or other worries are holding you back, and you’re existing but not living, you may be in the mediocrity trap.
But how can you tell?
Signs of the Mediocrity Trap
It’s Sunday night and the workweek begins tomorrow. How do you feel? Excited about the week’s accomplishments ahead? Looking forward to a co-worker event mid-week? Thinking about preparing for an important meeting?
Or are you feeling blue, like this week will be just like last week and the week before that? Or resigned to being bored, making it through the day by playing games on your phone when no one is looking? Or feeling that you want to make a difference but you’re just another small cog in a wheel?
If you’re stuck in the mediocrity trap, you may make excuses for staying there, such as:
- You don’t have the training/education for a job change or promotion
- You can’t pursue your ideal opportunity because you won’t have the support of family and friends
- You have obligations—loans, rent, family responsibilities, etc. that require you maintain a steady income
It’s one thing to plan to stay in a “keep the lights on” job while you get training or pay off debt; but it’s when the plan is not so much a plan, but a default, that keeps your situation stagnant.
Mediocrity and the Boiled Frog
Sometimes people don’t realize they’re in the mediocrity trap. You may have heard of the boiled frog metaphor. When a frog is put in boiling water, it will immediately try to jump out. Just as a person in crisis is willing to make whatever changes are necessary to make the situation better. But when a frog is put in water, and you gradually increase the temperature, the frog won’t try to escape because it adapts to the higher temperature—until it can’t anymore and dies. As people, we may adapt to increasingly uncomfortable situations. The key is to realize it before reaching a boiling point!
So, where are you?
Are you fulfilled?
Somewhere in between?
If you’re one of the two latter categories, it’s time to step up and challenge the status quo—changing yourself and your environment, no longer accepting business as usual.
Choices: We may not like them, but we have them
Sometimes, we all do a little wishful thinking. We imagine that when we make a change, the choice we select should be easy to accomplish, so we’ll wait (sometimes indefinitely) until that magical state arrives.
For example, let’s say you want to go back to school to get an advanced degree. But money is tight. So, you’ll wait until you get a promotion, rather than look at ways to budget so you can start on your change right now.
Or, you’re in a professional or personal relationship that is causing you pain. Rather than look at the ways you can alter your situation, you wait and hope that your partner will be different this time. Chances are, he or she won’t. And your thoughts of change—without action, are merely wishes.
We often overestimate the amount of work or time involved in change. You may hate your current job, but dread the idea of searching for a new one and then being the new person on-board. But when you look at how long that period of discomfort really lasts, it may be about two to six months. In comparison, however, do you expect your current job situation to dramatically improve in two to six months? At the end of that time, would you rather be thriving in a new job, or still stuck where you are?
The key is to keep your choices in perspective—understanding although those choices may not be perfect, they are in your control. And, the more that you make choices that rattle that hamster wheel, the more choices to get to make in the future.
Challenge The Status Quo For Yourself
So now you’ve recognized whether you’re stuck in mediocrity, and if so, you’ve reviewed some reasons why that may be. What do you do next?
You know you have choices (whether you like all of them or not). Your next step comes down to one of three buckets:
- Do nothing
- Make the big leap
- Make smaller consistent changes where you can
- Do nothing: When you do nothing, you might have decided that regardless of the logic, now is just not the time to rock the boat. Other responsibilities may be zapping your energy; and you just don’t have it in you to do anything different. The worse-case, however, is when you have not intentionally decided to do nothing—because this means you haven’t made a commitment.
- Make the big leap: This is when you quit your job to hike the Himalayas. You go all in. It’s may be scary and exhilarating, but you go forth with the deep belief that the universe will reward you for your faith. The truth is that this is one of the hardest choices to make; and most people don’t do it. But the key in making these leaps is trusting yourself, your abilities, and your heart. When you do that – in any situation — opportunities begin to blossom.
- Make smaller consistent changes where you can: The middle of the road approach has its advantages, particularly when, from a practical approach, you can’t go hiking the Himalayas because you’ve committed to coaching your daughter’s softball team. But that doesn’t mean change doesn’t happen. Figure out how to make shifts towards your desired future. Take classes online after work that leads to a degree. Audition for a local musical theatre production. Join a nearby hiking group. Suggest taking on a new project at work. Small, consistent, intentional steps will not only get you to you goal; they are often more sustainable than the proverbial jump off the cliff.
Once you make the commitment to take the steps (big or small) to challenge the status quo, the energy that fuels your desired change grows—as does your confidence and your motivation. Sticking to the status quo won’t bring you fulfillment. It is challenging it to change your current circumstance that can open the gates to countless opportunities.
Warren Buffet states “the best investment you can make is in yourself.” I believe him.
So when will you invest in YOU?
If you truly want to challenge the status quo and take your life and business to the next level, say YES today.
I help my clients create more effective, advanced, conscious contributions to business and society.