As people travel through life, teachers might label them "average." Family members might limit their dreams. Bosses might stifle them. All too often, people respond by simply settling into a boring, mediocre life.
But that's not the kind of life God wants for anyone. Don't settle for it! If you refuse to be satisfied by a life of mediocrity, you'll be free to pursue excellence. In the process, your life will become the unique adventure God has planned for you - and you'll fulfill your highest potential.
Here are some ways you can rise above mediocrity to excellence:
Excel at being who you are. Embrace your uniqueness by accepting God's unconditional love for you. Know that you are today who you have decided to become, you can be more than you are right now, and you should be the best you can be as an act of worship to God. Understand that your worth is based on who you are - God's beloved child - rather than what you do. Forget who other people think you are; express yourself and become who you really are. Be real. Don't pose, posture, or pretend to gain anything. Instead, trust God to provide it. Remember that He is on your side and He is all you'll ever really need. Respect yourself by living a life consistent with the real you. Be honest, humble, and willing to help others. Don't keep secrets or hold grudges. Focus your energy on preparing to do something great with your life. Remember that your past and current circumstances don't have to limit your future; nothing is impossible with God. Counter our culture of slick deals and shortcuts by committing to go the extra mile in all you do. Use your God-given talents. Find things you love to do and do well. Then do them the best way you can, for as long as you can. Give everything you've got to everything you do. Know your business and develop the skills to perform it well. Be enthusiastic. Take the initiative. Make wise decisions. Be reliable. Work smart by balancing work well into your life as a whole. Make a habit of doing more than you're paid to do. Demonstrate a positive attitude. Don't listen to those who try to convince you to compromise your commitment to excellence.
Excel at being where you are. Seize opportunities. Stop waiting for a better time or better conditions. Rely on God's power to take advantage of the opportunities He gives you. Ask yourself what problems you're facing right now, and how those problems present possibilities for you to grow. Be available for God to use whenever and however He wants. Be on the lookout for divine appointments. Conquer your fears. Ask God to give you the confidence to believe that something He has called you to will take place even when you can't yet see it. Trust in God's wisdom even when you don't understand what He's doing in your life. Obey God even when doing so doesn't seem reasonable or won't make you popular with others. Ask God to give you the perspective to see matters over the long haul and trust Him when you can't control the outcome. Live courageously in the face of danger or difficulty. Get out of your comfort zone and take risks God calls you to take. Stick to your convictions even when they fly in the face of popular opinion. Center your life on God rather than yourself. Ask God to give you the wisdom to do the right thing for the right reason, in the right way at the right time. Remember that God is faithful to keep all of His promises.
Excel with what you have. Serve a noble cause. Let love motivate you, and let freedom be your mission. Reject apathy. Employ your passions in the service of others as God leads you. Trade mildness for wildness. Be adventurous, constantly seeking to discover more about God and act on the ideas He gives you. Spend regular time in prayer. Write out your thoughts in a journal. Think while you exercise (while your body is in motion, your brain is free to work on a subconscious level). With your character and competencies in mind, identify your calling in life. Clarify what kind of contribution you'd like to make to the world, and make decisions about how to spend your time and energy around that goal. Take the right risks. Initiate change. Eliminate as many distractions as you can. Never quit; ask God to help you persevere. Be willing to ask for help as you do your work. Find people who will model something you need to know, but can't learn on your own. Establish relationships with a few mentors who will teach you specific skills. Build friendships with people who will motivate you. Look for people whose personalities are compatible with yours; who will respect confidentiality in your relationship; and who will be loyal, honest, merciful, and tenacious. Always turn to God - your ultimate friend - for help as well.
Excel while you can. Realize that your time is a part of your life that you can never get back once you've spent it. Guard your time at least as carefully as you do your money. Know that wasting your time is wasting your life. Don't waste it by worrying, gossiping, nursing grudges, trying to please everyone, or living from one crisis to the next. Remember that you will have to account to God at the end of your life for how you used your time. Think and pray about what your priorities should be, and plan your schedule around that. Focus on more than just be efficient; strive to be effective. Develop a sustainable pace in life, where you have patience and stamina. Surrender to God's motives, trust His methods, and accept His timing. Take a regular inventory of your blessings and thank God for them. Strive to finish the race of life well. Never let go of hope, even when the future looks bleak. Pursue meaningful work and lifelong learning. Take time to rest and recharge. But never stop living life to its fullest and contributing to the world. Keep in mind the legacy that you would like to leave. Trust God to do great things in your life!
Adapted from Accept No Mediocre Life: Living Beyond Labels, Libels, and Limitations, copyright 2005 by David Foster. Published by Warner Faith, a division of Time Warner Book Group, New York, N.Y., www.twbookmark.com.
Dr. David Foster is the founding pastor of the Bellevue Community Church, one of the fastest growing churches in Tennessee. Hope is the theme that permeates his teaching, writing, and life ministry. He hosts the popular radio talk show Making Life Work. He and his wife Paula teach "Married and Loving It" and "The Power of Positive Parenting" seminars across the United States. Dr. Foster holds a Masters of Divinity from the Mid-America Theological Seminary in Memphis, Tn., and a doctorate from the Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, Tn. Learn more about his work at www.hopepark.com.