If you were to ask 10 random persons what they want to achieve most in their lives, you would most likely receive the same answer from at least 8 of them: happiness.
People want to be happy no matter what that state means to them: financial safety, better health or a new romantic partner. They imagine that once they get it, they will enter an eternal state of bliss completely impenetrable by pain, insecurity or sadness.
The truth is that anyone who has ever been happy knows that this feeling doesn’t last. It is as fugitive as any other feeling you can experience in your lifetime. If you set it as your main life goal, you will never actually reach it because every time you will put your hands on it, it will slip through your fingers.
Michel de Montaigne, one of the Renaissance’s most significant philosophers famously said: “Happiness is a singular incentive to mediocrity.”
What he meant to say is that one should always try to improve his life, skills, and achievements to escape mediocrity. Happiness should never be your goal. Happiness is a consequence of reaching your goals.
What is mediocrity?
Mediocrity is the being in the middle of whatever you are, do or attempt with your life. You can be mediocre at your job, at keeping your financial and love situations afloat or at being a good parent and a good friend.
When you are mediocre, you are neither great nor unimportant. With this label stamped on your forehead, you are neither the best nor the worst, neither rich nor poor and neither memorable but not completely insignificantly either.
Most people are fine with being mediocre. Being middle-class, having a decent-paying job, building a cookie-cut relationship with everybody – all of these are attainable goals that bring you safety and a delusional understanding of happiness.
Why you must avoid mediocrity
There are people out there who are not comfortable at all with mediocrity. They can’t stand being in the average category at anything or at least at what they are the most passionate about. These are the individuals that create and change history from the smallest to the largest global scale.
They are the best athletes, artists, scientists, and businesspersons. They are the ones who change entire communities and influence others to overcome their mediocrity.
Their main goal is to be better at something with each given day. They may receive laurels regularly, but they never make the mistake of sleeping on them. Laurels are just as ephemeral and slipping as that feeling of happiness.
How to be happy
If you set happiness as your goal, you will drown even deeper in the quicksand of mediocrity.
Instead, you should be focusing on improving your skills and abilities at whatever you care most about in your life. It could be anything from your job or your relationship with your family and friends. It could be a hobby or a personal talent, and even a sporting ability.
Whatever it is, you must strive to improve it every day. Try your best to be the best at it. Happiness will ensue.