The Golden Mean

Conformity, much like color, doesn’t only come in black or white. It masks itself in a gradient of shades across different scenarios. We’re encouraged to celebrate our differences yet there’s an overarching ideal of perfection for every situation.

We’re often told to lead by example for we intrinsically learn by example. In doing so, we become relational beings. It is only in relation to you that I construct my reality. Had we not been provided with a parameter for comparison, identifiers like weight, age, socioeconomic class, ability, etc. become immaterial. It is only when we compare ourselves to another that we validate our reality: what is or the lack thereof, what isn’t. Seemingly, we ignore what is, the abundance of blessings bestowed upon us and ruminate instead over what isn’t. It’s often said that life begins at the end of our comfort zone yet when we recognize an unconventional opportunity, we choose instead, to tread the familiar path of the “golden mean.” Our friend Aristotle described it as the desirable middle between any two extremes. In essence, reaching a happy medium or more simply put: mediocrity.


When was the last time you heard your parents say “We’re so happy with how mediocre you have been this past year”? 


Why then, are we striving toward conforming to a particular cookie cutter mold?

In economics we’re taught that resources are scarce and that the economic problem is exacerbated by unlimited wants and needs. We learn through simplified models that supply and demand forces move in opposition and eventually determine market equilibrium. In biology we learn about the physiological processes that help maintain homeostasis, or more simply put, internal equilibrium despite external changes. In life, we do exactly that, live as though resources are scarce and adjust to maintain equilibrium, when in reality, the problem germinates less from scarcity and more from our shortcomings in utilizing the available resources.

Let’s illustrate this through one such resource that is equitably distributed: time. The magic number, 24, is seemingly never enough. We complain incessantly about the lack of time yet it’s only during significant instances like the moment we fall in love or the birth of a child that we realize how it truly only takes an instant to change ones life. You see, it’s not time that’s insufficient; it’s our inability to prioritize and utilize it efficiently that’s the problem. 

A large part of the human experience entails living somewhere between the dichotomy of stability and ambiguity – the crossroad between comfort zone and passion. This is probably why we stay in safe, stable jobs within career paths we don’t want to pursue and stop ourselves from taking a leap of faith lest we fail without recourse. We swing like a pendulum between that what is expected of us and that which calls to our soul, never quite realizing that it’s the very momentum of going toward one extreme that eventually brings us closer to the center.

If every fingerprint is different why must our footprints tread a path that’s similar to another’s?

Tread your own path. Carve your own footprints. Utilize the resources that are available to you and above all, do the best you can with what you have with where you’re at!