Productivity doesn’t equal worth. Right? Deep down, I know this statement it absolutely true. At the core, each living being on earth is of infinitely more value than can be measured or quantified. Each person, or creature, or plant, or river is so much more than whatever is accomplished or produced in a lifetime. Yet we have a hard time accepting this. We see our land-base as a commodity more often than we see it as a partner in life. We tend to use water and air and soil for our own gain with little thought beyond what our actions might mean for someone across the world or a child born three generations from now. Often we mean well and even start to change our ways, but then life gets hard and it’s easier not to. We slip back into believing that more is better and that getting ahead and making the grade is what’s important. We start to see high productivity as the ideal and we lose faith in believing that it really isn’t when we are trying to tell the truth and the people who have the power to create change don’t believe. Or don’t want to.
I say I am trying to be ok with mediocrity. In another blog post recently, I wrote,
I’ve recognized that if I’m going to stay in my day job and thrive as a human being, mediocrity is my new goal for success. It’s hard to let old tendencies of wanting to be a top performer or make good grades or always receive glowing reviews go. But I’ve realized that, at least in my current life and work situation, being a top performer isn’t what matters to living the life that I want to live.
I say this, but do I mean it? Can I really be ok with mediocrity and not letting productivity dictate how I feel about my worth in a work setting? What happens when striving for mediocrity is deemed below expectations and unacceptable by the people who decide if you get a pay check or not? These are hard questions. I can say that I don’t care about being called out for not being productive enough, but at the end of the day it still gets under my skin. It still invokes feelings of scarcity and fear of not being enough, no matter how well I do my job. It’s challenging to stay true to your convictions when you are told that what you are doing simply isn’t good enough and that you have to do better, or pay the consequences.
This all sounds more dramatic than it really is, of course. I have an easy life, all things considered. I have a family I love, a beautiful setting to call home, consistent access to good food and water, and a strong and capable body to see me through my days. The stress I have in my life is due to how I perceive what’s happening, and I know that I have the capacity to choose how I respond to whatever comes to pass. Yet the nagging question remains…how do we live fully and to our greatest healthy potential in the midst of a culture that believes that productivity equals worth?
Maybe we hold onto what we know is true despite the expectations and quantifications and market standards and hope that by doing so we can hold the energy that is needed to invite the change that is so needed in the world. Maybe we focus on the space that is in between where we are and where we want to go, and maybe we notice that it’s that space that allows new things to come into being. Maybe from that space we can learn to recognize our gifts, and we can offer those gifts out into our communities, our workplaces, and our families. Maybe it is from our gifts – those gifts that are unique to our own being — that we can affect the “powers that be” in the deepest way and contribute to the healing of the world. I might even say that giving up the notion that productivity equals worth is one of the essential puzzle pieces that could help fit peace into this world.
Zadie Smith says, “Tell the truth through whichever veil comes to hand — but tell it.” Productivity doesn’t equal worth. Can’t get much more true than that.