Fighting Mediocrity: Mindset and Goal Setting

It’s easy to do what you are told, what society expects you to do. You wind up in a job that pays the bills and provides you with a sense of security that you’re told will make you happy. Where’s the excitement in that though? Where’s the opportunity to be better than you’re expected to be? (Check This Out: The 7 Step Process to Being a Badass)

The truth? Your decisions and actions.

Every decision that you make ultimately leads to a consequence in your future, either positive or negative depending on the choice. Your quest to be better than average, great, even unstoppable, begins with the decisions you start making right now. The size of the decision that you make can vary from something as small as whether or not to eat a doughnut, all the way to the big decisions in life like, ‘is this the career path I really need to be on’. The decisions that you make need to align with who you really are. What do you stand for? What’s your why? Do you really know your absolute limit? Do you even have an idea of how great you really want to be and what you’re willing to do to get there?

Being great involves taking calculated risks and working tirelessly to get where you want to go. This isn’t some aimless chaotic spur of the moment decision. Once you know what you really want and every ounce of your being believes it, you ‘prioritize and execute’.  As it’s perfectly stated in Extreme Ownership, you have to ‘prioritize and execute’ in a manner that will help you organize a plan to get things done efficiently without overwhelming you. It can start with something as small as getting up the moment your alarm goes off and making your bed to start the day. Tasks one and two? Completed. On to the next. By the end of the day you’ll look back at what you’ve accomplished and realize that being average is just another term for being lazy. When you climb into a bed you made yourself that morning, you’ll get a shot of dopamine for knowing you did it on your own. Your mind will start racing with ways you can be even more prepared than you were the day before. You want more and fortunately it’s an addictive and incredibly productive cycle.

You have to be relentless in your approach. It won’t be easy. It’s not meant to be easy. If it were, everybody would be great. Let’s be honest here for a second though. All of this requires work, and who wants to put in more work than they’re already doing for a payoff that could take a lot of time and energy? This pessimistic attitude should sicken you for even making an appearance. Average people are really just weak people right? Too weak to change what they know is holding them back? Are you weak or just not confident enough in your abilities? Chew up that weakness, swallow it, and use it to fuel the war against mediocrity.

You’ll no doubt be fighting several battles at once, and the deeper you go, the more calculated you have to become. But these battles, not too dissimilar to how real battles shape men, teach you lessons that you can carry with you for the rest of your life. The armed forces, alpinism, and few other respectful careers can actually put a person in a life and death situation; one wrong step and you meet your maker. Very few people will actually operate on that thin line, but you have to work like your life actually depends on it.

Mark Twight in Kiss or Kill wrote, “Live with commitment. With emotional content. Live whatever life you choose honestly. Get to the guts of one thing; accept, without casuistry, the responsibility of making a choice. When you live honestly, you can not separate your mind from your body, or your thoughts from your actions.”

The minute details that were the battles of yesterday are the automatic deeds of today leaving you more time to focus on the present and most important task at hand. The automatic accomplishments that you set for yourself become the standard, and every day you raise that standard  a little bit more.

But being great doesn’t just mean getting up on time and making your bed every day. It means making the right choices, continuously, that align with who you are and the goals that you have set for yourself. Goals are the big piece to this puzzle. Seemingly too easy to put time and effort to it, most people fail to set goals for themselves, leaving an easy safety net to fall onto if the going gets too tough. An unconscious decision maybe, but your mind is making sure you have that escape route to get out when all hell breaks loose. John F. Kennedy said, “those who dare to fail greatly, can achieve greatly.’”Shouldn’t you be so determined to achieve your goal that you cut the rope so you have no other option?

You have something in mind right now; some big idea that you’ve had in mind for years and put off for various reasons that you make up in your own head. Too busy, too tired, not enough money, and the list goes on. That idea, that dream, could be the goal that you’ve been looking for. The one that would make you happy and fulfilled. Maybe it’s a long way off, one that will take years to work towards, but at least it gives you direction for something that you truly want to do. Now your life has some meaning, a purpose, a new direction that heads in a place you actually want to go. (Read This: Are You Living or Existing?)

Once you have your objective, small goals need to be set. Goals are just desired results and when you achieve them, you have to already have the next one in front of you. Failing to set objectives to reach on your way to your ultimate goal will tease you into the trap of being comfortable and pleased with your progress. Average will always be there to creep up on you when you aren’t paying attention, and being complacent with your progress is an easy road back to mediocrity. The path of least resistance is always there beckoning for you to take it.

You’ve set an ambitious goal, you begin chipping away, but progress slows because you aren’t as motivated as you were at the beginning. This, is the grind. The grind can make or break a man depending on their mental tenacity. You have to be ready for it because it will come. But because you’ve already mastered your own weakness, you can feel it coming up and know the tactics to beat it into submission. Your arsenal of motivational tactics is dynamic and will ebb and flow, but you’ve already got it locked and loaded, ready to unleash hell. You may even start to compete against yourself, proving that the you of today is stronger and more capable than the you of yesterday.

“If you’re not getting better, you’re getting worse.” –Joe Paterno

The journey is a part of the experience that can make a man realize what in life really matters. You may be just shy of attaining what you’ve worked years for, and you miss the opportunity. There’s no reason to worry, no reason to revert to the sad purposeless lifestyle you once lived. Along the way you’ve learned about the discipline, commitment, and strength that you didn’t know you had or that you taught yourself. Randy Pausch, only a few months before his death at The Last Lecture said, ‘”experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted”. Challenge yourself on a journey like this and try and find some way that you don’t improve. It doesn’t happen. No matter the route you take, if you commit yourself to it fully and come up short, you’ll still learn something about yourself. Something you did better at than you’ve ever done before, or a weakness that you never knew you had, a fully dedicated life will reveal true strengths and weaknesses and leave it in your hands to change the future outcomes.

The completion of a long term goal is a feeling that can’t be described. Achieving your goal is empowering, a huge confidence boost due to the hurdles you’ve had to jump and the brick walls you’ve had to tear down. You’ve reached the top and the view is incredible. The ultimate reward followed by the thought of “what’s next”. Driven people rarely stop. By the time they reach the peak they already have their sights set on the next highest point no matter how distant it may be. It’s the attitude that the relentless person has and one that the average joe can’t handle.  That in itself can fuel the fire even more.

So are you going to go to bed tonight with a plan to fight the path of mediocrity tomorrow morning? Do you have goals to give you a direction to head in no matter how many easy paths tempt you along your way? It’s normal to be mediocre. If you choose that route, you are a part of the high percentage of sheep that are being herded blindly towards a predetermined future. You’ll live… for a while. But at what cost? If you crave more, and dare to test your own capabilities, the choices you make starting right now will determine the speed that you’ll reach the place you want to go. No matter how high you set your goals, your decisions and your actions, both positive and negative will determine your future.

About The Author

Josh Lawson is a husband, father, and Head Strength and Conditioning Coach at Southern University. Prior to Southern University, Josh was a strength and conditioning coach at Louisiana State University for 5 years after earning his exercise science degree from Appalachian State University.

You can contact him at –

Instagram @TheCoachLawson