Joy can be sustained in average lives more readily than in exceptional ones. Why not experiment for just a day, and then see how you feel?
Here's the link to Michael Neill's article on which this episode is based:
[ music ] . Hi, this is Rob Sepich, and welcome to Relaxing with Rob. How often do you say, "Have a great day?" Even when you mean it, how easy is it to achieve? I feel like we live in a world of superlatives, where we say, "awesome" or "amazing" or "incredible," perhaps a little more often than the words call for. In my first professional job, there was a colleague who started at the same time I did. She was always telling me about her huge group of friends from another state. I have a good memory, but even back then I had a really hard time keeping track of them. Because one was her "closest" friend, one was her "oldest" friend, one was her "dearest" friend, and I'm pretty sure one was her "most trusted" friend. It felt like she had more best friends than I had total friends. I felt pretty inferior around her. And I'm all about being positive, and I use superlatives too, but I sometimes wonder if they create unreasonable expectations. And then when we fail to meet them, we feel somehow inadequate. Like, "what's wrong with me?" Social media, of course, does not help. I spoke a bit about this in episode 1, "Joy of Missing Out." For example, you might see Instagram posts from your friends having an amazing brunch at an awesome new restaurant. But for some reason you choose not to post a selfie while eating a Pop Tart, or bowl of cereal over the sink. Your experience is actually a lot more common than having incredible meals at new restaurants, but it doesn't look that way on your phone. Today, I'd like to share an idea to reduce the stress you might feel to achieve superlatives in life. And although this might help your friends and family too, my purpose is to help you. I think of this as an element of self-compassion. In my stress management course, we would talk about an article called "Have an Average Day" by the coach and author Michael Neill . And for your convenience, I'm placing a link to it in the show notes. And if you go to that page, you'll also find his excellent books and coaching programs available online and in person. But I want you to know that this link, like all of mine, is a non- affiliate link. So if you do buy something, I don't receive anything. In his article, Michael Neill credits the concept to his mentor, Steve Chandler, who happens to credit it to his mentor, Lyndon Duke . In other words, this idea is not mine. I just have had the good fortune of benefiting from it personally and then teaching it to college students. In short, here's the concept. The world certainly benefits from exceptional people. We are lucky they exist. But since being exceptional is by definition rare, almost everybody fails. So if that's your goal, good luck with that. And you know those few who do achieve it usually feel envied, misunderstood, isolated, sometimes even cursed. When Conan O'Brien was at the height of his career, he delivered a commencement address at Harvard, his alma mater. And I remember how he compared that level of success to owning a brand new tailor-made white tuxedo. You feel great at first when you're wearing it, but in no time at all you start to get really nervous, constantly trying to avoid everything that might get it dirty. It's ironic to me to notice that what famous people seem to want most is privacy, even anonymity. In Michelle Obama's memoir "Becoming," she writes about the joy of an incognito trip to Target, where even her secret service detail went in plain clothes. And then the pleasure once the Obamas left the White House of eating, I think it was a grilled cheese sandwich, in her own backyard, all alone. So if your goal of being exceptional is likely to fail, I wonder if you could just imagine a lifetime of average days doing an average amount of what you actually love to do. Maybe even with a partner who really gets you and loves you for who you are. The cumulative effect of a life like that really is exceptional. So if you're able to go there, it means that some days can just be average. Some weeks, average. Some semesters, some classes, some meetings, average. I'm not suggesting to just phone it in. Pour it on with certain projects that mean a lot to you. But expecting perfection or exceptionality is exhausting, and it's elusive. And if you go to Michael Neill's link that I mentioned, you're going to see some applications of his concept for ideas about writing and sales and parenting. Still give careful thought to your values and how you can pursue your goals, hopefully living with an open heart. But just tomorrow, could you experiment with a goal for an "average day?" I've been lucky enough to stay in touch with some of my former students, and when I see them and we catch up on our lives, more than one has said to me when we part company, "Rob, have an average day," which always feels affirming. In fact, to tell you the truth, it makes me feel awesome! Incredible! [I'm sorry, I just , I couldn't resist] Thank you for listening. I hope you have an average day, and we'll talk again soon. [ music ] .