Embrace Mediocrity for Work-Life Balance & more advice from Gail Golden

The byline in Gail Golden’s book, ‘Curating your Life’ speaks about ending the struggle for work-life balance. In the Modern Wisdom podcast, Gail shares numerous ideas and insights to end that struggle.

To me, the one that stood out was – embracing mediocrity.

Pic Courtesy – Amazon

Our quest for excellence makes us indiscriminate in a way. We want to be fantastic in everything we do, put in a lot of effort. In our mind, it is a reflection of our commitment and sincerity. Gail invites us to accept a liberating truth : Most of what we do in our life is mediocre. We slog it out in the quest for perfection. Not content with good. In fact, we don’t even need to be good. Just well-enough is acceptable. Once you realize that you can be passable in multiple areas that are not core in your life, so much is unlocked for you!

Free of the mediocre things by not doing it at all or doing just well-enough; you can now pour out your time and effort doing the few things you are truly great at; where your excellence matters and gets you multiple rewards. Identifying those areas is calculating your Return on Investment (ROI). You may be great at something, but if it is not fetching you the returns you seek – material or spiritual – you are invited to think about whether it is worth investing in.

And just what is it that you are investing?

When we believe we are investing time, we get misled because time just keeps on flowing into our life, a seemingly endless supply. Very few are able to bring conscious awareness of our limited time here on earth into their day-to-day life.

We don’t manage or invest time. We invest energy. Energy is a great thing to factor in as it is finite. It is what we make use of. 

Before undertaking anything, we can ask two questions

  1. Is this worth investing my finite energy? 
  2. If I take this up, what do I need to drop?

Before you pick up something in your hands, you have to put down the thing you are holding, isn’t it? Because we have finite energy. You see, if we had thought of time, we would have created space by saying, I will sleep less. That is unhelpful. Most achievers do not compromise on rest.

How do achievers go about things? Gail says they have their own perfected rhythm and choose a time to sprint and recover.

Sprint and Recover.

These people have made an art of getting into short bursts of frenetic activity that are strictly followed by a time of unwinding and relaxation. Sprint and recover – an effective way of managing energy.

Organisational leaders are managing the energy of their entire organisation.

They have twin tasks in this regard.

The first is, getting to decide where to invest their own finite energy, as individuals. A good guide-line for them could be – Only do what only you can do.

And the second is, how to  facilitate the managing of finite energy of their team-members. This is a crucial leadership responsibility.

Gail shares a personal story.

Her father had escaped the Nazi regime and was living in UK. After the Second world war ended, child survivors of concentration camps were in recovery centers all over UK. Her father became a volunteer, not because he was trained in therapy, but because he knew the languages. He found that all volunteers were driven by the wish to help the children heal faster. They were super committed to their healing work.

Pic Courtesy – GailGolden Consulting

The recovery center leaders saw this commitment. And made one key rule.

Under no circumstances will any volunteer be allowed to visit the recovery center all seven days of the week. One day was an absolutely compulsory off-day. Being there on all seven days to help traumatized children took a toll on the volunteers .They needed a day off , though they were loathe to admit it. Knowing this, the leaders took matters in their own hands. Daily rounds were taken to identify anybody flouting the off-day rule. They were sent back.

Gail’s other special advice is to find a grey zone between black and white and visit that zone regularly. The black zone is where you flout all rules. The white zone is where you follow all rules. The grey zone is where you allow yourself to be a little naughty and break rules and don’t beat yourself up for it! By visiting the grey zone, you make it a pit-stop and not a ditch for yourself.

You feel more alive, more response-able because you are walking on the edge! Give yourself the leeway to be fallible and human. Make it into an art that keeps you on the edge and not a licence to mess around.

To sum up, the tips for Curating your life as covered here are

  1. Embrace mediocrity. You cannot do it all. Just be good enough and move onto what you are great at. Don’t do everything you are great at either. Think – Return on investment. 
  2. Think energy instead of time. Ask two questions in considering anything – Is it worth investing my finite energy? If I pick this up, what will I drop. As my energy is finite.
  3. Sprint and recover. Follow bursts of activity with mandatory off-time.
  4. Be naughty, rather than good or bad. Make allowance for times when you will not be up to it. 


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