This magazine hopes to inspire us to elevate our everyday by taking care of all the small things we do daily. There is no shortage of mental bandwidth given to big events – holiday plans, weddings and new kitchen flooring all get our full attention. Much more of our time however, is spent using our washing machines, unloading dishwashers and a third of our life is spent in bed, so that mattress and bedding needs to be the best (and the freshest) we can make it. I call these micro-upgrades, but they add up to a truly upgraded life. That is, one with more soul, more elegance and more self-provision. However, because our everyday lives lack the razzle dazzle of the big event, we risk thinking the investment in making sure the contours of our daily lives are smooth and flowing, is not the best use of our time.
In line with this skew towards ‘big event focus’ to the exclusion of our day-to-day experiences, is what researcher Lyndon Duke called ‘the curse of exceptionality.’ Duke studied the linguistics of suicide notes to see if he could glean, from the language used, any insight into the tragic decision in order to prevent teenagers from taking their lives. What he concluded was the pressure to be exceptional stood squarely in the way of happiness.
“When everyone is trying to be exceptional, nearly everyone fails because the exceptional becomes commonplace, and those few who do succeed feel isolated and estranged from their peers.”
– Hollywood life coach and author Michael Neill
Duke was not a happy camper himself and his own light bulb moment came when he saw his neighbour singing whilst mowing his lawn – he realised that not only was it OK to have an average day, there was great pleasure to be had in it. Years ago, I was in New York buying over priced hosiery, when the cashier asked me to “have an amazing evening.” I thought this was an incredible response to purchasing a pair of 12 denier stay-up stockings and I looked at her and said, “No pressure then!” She looked at me in the way Americans can when you have left the script – blankly. Now, as it happens I was in New York, I didn’t have to work the next day, I had all the glossy novelty of Manhattan (not to mention their incomparable cocktail making abilities) to get me juiced, so my night was always going to be good. But what if I worked there? What if all day I were trying to be the Wolf of Wall Street, and now, hyper-caffeinated, all I had ahead of me that evening were three spreadsheets to review and a miserable hour panting on a treadmill? It’s a wonder people don’t openly burst into tears under the sheer strain of not being able to have an average, run of the mill evening.
“When everyone is trying to be exceptional, nearly everyone fails because the exceptional becomes commonplace, and those few who do succeed feel isolated and estranged from their peers. We’re left with a world in which a few people feel envied, misunderstood and alone, while thousands of others feel like failures for not being good, special, rich, or happy enough,” says Hollywood life coach and author Michael Neill.
Of course, in a world where everyone is trying to be rich, famous and extraordinary, the idea of having an average day is hard to stomach. Neill though, advises that the cumulative effect of a series of average days should not be underestimated and he suggests the following approach:
1 Choose an area in which you are trying to excel e.g. marketing, parenting, designing, writing.
2 Ask yourself – what would an average day look like for me? So if you are in sales for example, how many calls would constitute an average day? Not a lousy day and not an amazing one, just an average one.
3 If ten calls would be an average day for you, that amounts to fifty calls a week – at least 200 per month. You quickly see the effects of back-to-back average days.
The big advantage of having an average day is that your life is automatically upgraded as a result. You can relax more during your working day now that you have given yourself a break from being a worldwide phenomenon. (Even if you have been a worldwide phenomenon, you don’t feel the pressure to have to repeat it!) Secondly, you can actually be finished for the day for once and draw a line under it. This enables you to truly wind down during the evening, which leads to better sleep. Thirdly, without the pressure to be extraordinary you can finally get some accomplishments under your belt – ten new Italian verbs, 15 minutes of stretching, a couple of pages of writing – rather than collapsing into an exhausted heap flattened under the weight of your own stellar expectations at 11.45 a.m. Finally, and ironically, all those average accomplishments really add up – in fact, they amount to 1,200 new Italian verbs, 78 hours of stretching and 728 pages of writing or at least two novels! λ
Michael Neill (www.michaelneill.org) is a success coach, media commentator and author.