We always talk about motivation, success, and leading a phenomenal life. Social media, movies, books are full of content that says you gotta get up and prove yourself or else succumb to leading a mediocre life.
So what, may I ask, is a mediocre life?
By today’s definition of a successful life, our parents’ lives and their parents’ lives before them would be considered mediocre.
My father was a highly successful man by today’s standards until he wasn’t. The highly successful life gave him health problems, many frenemies, and stole from him much that I cannot mention here.
When he lived a life that many would now consider unsuccessful he was happier -and his health improved. He balanced his priorities, got closer to Allah, and lived simply.
My mother raised seven of us against almost unfair odds but here we are. Someone asked my sister what work my Mum was involved in before she “retired”. The lady was shocked that my mum had never “worked” outside the house. Yet you cannot dismiss the energy, dedication, patience, and perseverance it takes to raise seven kids. She sewed all our clothes herself, cooked everything from scratch, and had neither blender nor vacuum cleaner- and most crucially- no disposable diapers to lighten her load.
Our grandparents and parents never felt the urge to prove themselves to anyone. If they fed, clothed, and educated their kids or more importantly raised their kids to have good morals and an honorable character they considered themselves successful.
They were happy with the little they had, led simple lives, and the highlights of their days were their prayers; the highlight of their week was Friday, and the highlight of their year was the two Eids. The highlight of their lives was when and if they were blessed to visit the Holy House in Makkah.
Their families were central and they made a point to reach out whenever they could.
Fast forward to today and all am seeing is PROVE YOURSELF! See, I believe that the only person you have to prove yourself to- if you must prove yourself at all- is yourself.
I abhor the messages being portrayed that in order to be successful you must sacrifice: a good night’s sleep; you must hustle until your signature becomes an autograph, that on your way to greatness, you must trust no one and certainly depend on no-one.
You will almost always end up missing your kids’ most important events when you adopt this mindset and you begin to see sleep and rest as something only for the weak.
I am appalled at the messages being bombarded at our young ones. Especially from this brutal education system that places more emphasis on grades than skills, on working ‘hard’ instead of working smart. A system that has no consideration for our children’s mental health.
That play, rest, and balance are for those who live in Miami, Florida (Trust me, I have been there and those guys know when to take a break) and not for Kenyans. This is why there are no P. E. lessons or Drama Clubs or variety shows or in our schools anymore C-19 aside.
Life is all about balance. It is about being present to appreciate whatever moment you are in.
What have we been sold to?
Mediocrity is when you exchange your wellbeing, your health and time spent with those you love in pursuit of being ‘king’. Worse still it is exchanging your time with your Lord to connect with Him for your hustle.
We must review our goals and renew our intentions.
What are we running around for?
What will make us feel satisfied at the end of our life?
There is also this ridiculous statement that you should do each day as if it was the end of your life. If it were the end of my life today I would not spend it chasing accolades, in front of a computer or stuck with people or a job I don’t particularly like just so to be seen that I am not living a mediocre life.
No, I would call my loved ones, ask for their duas and forgiveness and then I would never leave my prayer mat.
It would not matter that I have a PhD or make a bazillion dollars- it wouldn’t.
So why should it matter now?
Getting the PhD should not be an end in itself and neither should be making seven or eight figures. Not when it means I have no time for connection, God or my health.
Motivation, self help and all that is helpful there can be no doubt.
But let us be honest with ourselves and see what it is we are calling our youths – and ourselves- to get up and be.
Not upright citizens, not hufadhdul Quran not exemplary Muslims.
Don’t believe me? Just log into social media and see what I mean.