Last semester, my freshmen spent a couple of weeks writing essays. It was their first major writing assignment for me, and I wasn’t sure precisely what to expect. When I collected the finals, though, I knew that I could — and should — expect better. The vast majority of the students simply hadn’t tried to do well.
My kiddos and I had a little heart-to-heart. I told them that their papers were sub-par. I also told them that I knew they could do better. And I told them that I had one piece of advice for them that would help more than anything else as they revised these essays.
“Refuse to accept mediocrity.”
Settling for “good enough,” I explained, was not, in fact, good enough. I reminded them that sometimes we all fall short of the mark we’re trying to reach, and if that mark is just “good enough,” then we don’t have much room to fall, do we?
I told my students that this was a lesson they needed to take beyond this essay, beyond my classroom, beyond the school walls. “If you settle for mediocre in everything,” I said, “you’ll never achieve excellence in anything.”
Chastened, my students went to work on revising their essays. (FYI: The “chastened freshman effect” lasts, at most, one class period.) As they worked, I started thinking about the lecture I’d just given…and my own need to take that advice. Because I, too, settle for mediocrity.
Too often, I teach the same tired, boring lesson that I taught last year…because it’s “good enough.”
Too often, I settle for a text message when I need to call a friend…because it’s “good enough.”
Too often, I switch a tempo run to an easy run… because my body is tired and running at all is “good enough.”
Too often, I half-listen to my husband instead of being fully attentive… because kind-of listening is “good enough.”
Just like I told my students, none of those things are “good enough.” Those instances of settling make me a worse teacher, friend, runner, and wife. And I don’t want to be mediocre at any of those.
So I’m challenging myself (and you!) not to settle for mediocrity. To push for excellence and strive for our best in every important aspect of our lives. To rise to the challenge, even when rising is more difficult than we anticipate.
Even if we fall short of excellence, we’ll still be far beyond mediocre.
No questions today, but share your thoughts!