In my view of the world, there are two types of activities in this world. There are those activities that we do just so that we can get them done and check them off of our to-do list, things like filing our taxes, brushing our teeth, doing our laundry, taking our car in for regular servicing, charging our phone at the end of the day, cleaning our home on a periodic basis, and the list could go on and on. Then there are those activities that we do because want to, things that we pursue because we have an inner desire to do so, things that give our life meaning. Whatever it is and whether or not we see it this way, we all want to be pursuing something that we are passionate about, learning about and exploring more of the world around us, engaging in activities that are of meaning to us, and simply growing as human beings.
I often go back to undergraduate days at Arizona State when I was taking Psychology 101. In this class I learned about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Essentially, it is a model that depicts human needs in a hierarchal, pyramid-like fashion, with the most basic of human need (e.g., safety, food, water, shelter, rest, and security) being at the bottom of the pyramid, signifying that they take priority over those needs that are above them. Once these basic needs are met, humans are generally motivated to pursue the next set of needs in the hierarchy, things like friendships, intimate relationships, and feeling of belongingness and accomplishment. At the top of the pyramid is self-actualization, or the realization of one’s highest potential.
I like to think of my way of dichotomizing activities in this world as a way of making sense of Maslow’s Hierarchy. The things that we get done because we have to can be thought of as basic needs (e.g., paying taxes so that you remain safe from breaking the law, cleaning our place of living in order to have a suitable home to live in providing shelter and warmth, brushing our teetch so that we remain healthy and well), whereas the things that we do because we are driven by some other internal motivational fire can be thought of as our self-actualization needs (e.g., pursuing a sport with the end goal of discovering what we are physically and mentally capable of, exploring the world around us via travelling in order to learn more about ourselves).
It is for this reason that I just can’t bring myself to settle for being average in those pursuits that bring so much meaning into my life. I can’t accept being an okay triathlete, a decent fitness professional or graduate student, or an alright blogger/writer. I have an insatiable need to be the absolute best triathlete that I can be, the best fitness professional or student I am capable of, or the most passionate blogger/writer that I can possibly be. These pursuits, among a few others in my life, give my existence so much meaning and purpose that I just psychologically will not accept being average. I am perfectly fine with being average with my tax filings or my home-cleaning habits, but not with those activities that help me realize my highest potential.
I truly believe that this same thing can be said of every human being on planet Earth. There is a deep desire in all of us to realize our highest potential, and when we aren’t on a path towards realizing it our psychological well-being has the potential to become disturbed. I personally feel that my experience with depression during my undergraduate years in college was partially fueled by sense of a lack of meaning or purpose in my life. I’m sure I’m not alone in this feeling.
So whatever it is, if you feel that it brings meaning into your life or a sense of happiness and satisfaction into your existance, then pursue it with everything you have. Don’t settle for being average. Be the best that you can be. Believe in yourself and know that you have the power within you to be so much better than you thought possible. Life’s journeys and experiences are what are worth pursuing whole-heartedly as they will lead us towards realizing who we truly can be.