Thus once said French novelist Jean Giraudoux. Think about this for a moment. At first it looks like it’s a statement about “the mediocre” – you know, lots of other people — slackers — but not yourself, right? But then you think about it some more and the meaning shifts a bit.
You’re not a “mediocre” person; thus you’re not always at your best. The statement implies that high achievers are the ones not always at their best. This means that even you, a high achiever, someone really motivated and hard-working, aren’t always at your best. You have your off-days, your off-seasons, maybe even your off-year.
It’s quite uplifting, actually, because this statement hints at the fact that even if you’re a peak performer, the very nature of peak performance involves peaks. And thus also valleys. If you’re pushing yourself to the limit, you’re de facto going to encounter peaks and troughs as you expand your sphere of action, knowledge and experience. If you didn’t – if you never had troughs – you’d remain at the same edge all the time. And if the edge is smooth, it’s not cutting edge.
But wait – isn’t it possible to just keep on one peak, keep pushing that peak higher and higher, and slowly but surely just consistently walk up your own personal Mount Everest? Wouldn’t that be the ultimate form of true personal success, the ultimate cutting self-edge? Good question. To this I would just say, think back to the time when you last hiked up a mountain or other steep ridge. Or the last time you enjoyed a ski lift or other cable-car ride up a mountain. Did you only look upwards, at where you going? I doubt it. We always like to stop to rest and look down at how far we’ve come.
I think these little “stops” serve for at least two reasons. One is the fact that our bodies are finite entities and we need to rest them. Hence the sleep we need each night, even under normal circumstances. The second is that these “rest stops” help make our journey intelligible as we continue it. We look down to see how far we’ve come and how far we still need to go. Part celebration, but also part gauging what resources we will need to keep on going.
If you feel you’re spinning your wheels, or if you feel your head is spinning, take a moment to rest and look back at what you’ve achieved. You could very well be spinning because you’ve been pushing at your own limits. Be glad for these limits, because they tell you you’re living at your life’s own edge (or at least, one of the edges of your life). The limit is not a pleasant feeling, because you’re literally stretching the bounds of your own habitual experience. But this is how we strengthen our muscles and our minds. You haven’t fallen off your path; you’re just taking the needed break that will enable you to push further again when you’re ready.Related Posts
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