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William James of Harvard University said: “Compared to what we ought to be, we are only half awake. Our fires are dampened, our fires are checked, we are making use of only a small part of our mental and physical resources.”

The psychologist and philosopher wrote those words over 50 years ago and they are still a haunting and chilling reminder to all of us who do little more than exist in a sea of mediocrity. Too many of us try to change ourselves from the outside in. We try to change the mirror if we don’t like the reflection. We try to reform what’s going on around us rather than focus on changing what we can control; ourselves. This outside-in approach lends itself to what might be called official mediocrity. For example, to alleviate poverty, we do not work on equipping the person who is poor with the tools necessary to compete. Instead, we give them money. Welfare. It is an outside-in solution. It never works in the long term, only sets up extended mediocrity.

We live in an age that has come to accept “average” as a standard of performance. To many the challenge is to dare to be average. Then when someone we know moves out from the crowd to receive the rewards and acclaim that are theirs due to excellence, we watch in amazement, tinged with regret and chagrin. “Safety” and “security” have become ideals in this world and this has almost completely submerged our desire for growth. We were placed on this earth to be more than merely walking vegetables and we must be willing to take risks to achieve this growth. We must be willing to take risks to get to the 90 percent of our potential, according to James, that we never use.

Dr. Abraham Mazlow, wrote, “One can choose to go back toward safety or forward toward growth. Growth must be chosen again and again, fear must be overcome again and again.”

To become all you can be in life means that you may have to step out of line.

Mack Newton

Copyright Mack Newton. All rights reserved. No part of this article may be reproduced in any form without the expressed written consent of the author.