Selective Mediocrity, Intentional Excellence

Good Better BestI grew up playing basketball. It was my passion, and I dreamed of being in the WNBA.  I would shoot hoops for hours almost every day in our driveway when the weather was good. I played with friends, played on local teams, and played for our junior high school team where we took the district championship.

When I played on the sophomore team at my high school, it became more intense. It wasn’t quite as fun as the basketball I had grown up with. The coaches pushed us hard. They also wanted us to go to all the basketball camps in the off season, which was expensive.

After much thought, I decided not to try out again my junior year so that I could put more focus on other things. I never played on my high school’s junior varsity or varsity teams, which to me felt mediocre, even like failure. Others might say that I had already excelled as a basketball player, but that was hard for me to accept.

Looking back, I’ve realized that my history of playing basketball is just one example of many that demonstrates how I could have excelled but didn’t because of my own choices. And the fact is, I have felt a little embarrassed by that.

But as I have slowly processed these thoughts over time, I’ve come to realize that it is appropriate and good to intentionally choose how to spend my time and energy. I chose to focus on something other than basketball for the last two years of high school, and I believe it was a good decision. It’s okay to have “selective mediocrity” in the things that aren’t as important to me. Then, I can intentionally choose what’s most important and put my whole heart into those things.

This realization has become especially important to me in my role as a mother.

The other night, I went in to check on my 20-month-old before I went to bed. She had fallen asleep on top of her blanket, so I had to move her to pull out the blanket and get her situated again. As I started to move her, she stirred and reached up quietly saying, “Mama?” I could have gotten her back to sleep without picking her up, but it was too hard to resist that sweet call of my name. I gently picked her up, and as soon as she laid her head on my shoulder, she was out like a light.

I stayed there in the dark holding her for a few minutes, her arms wrapped around my neck, my heart swelling with love for her and with gratitude for the opportunity I have to be a mother.

Moments like that make me determined to be as excellent a mother as I can be, which may mean I have to choose to be mediocre in other areas of my life that just don’t matter as much to me. While acknowledging that I will never be perfect, I have set some big goals for myself as I strive to reach my definition of excellence as a mom:

I will love the heck out of my kids. I won’t stop kissing their kissable cheeks or holding their plump hands.

I will laugh with them and take the time to have fun with them as much as possible. I will roll on the grass with them and wrestle on the floor. I will play basketball or soccer with them in the yard.

I will continue to find joy in the sweet moments that come with each child. I will work on being a sensitive listener so that my children will want to tell me of their heartaches, triumphs, and struggles.

I will do my very best to be a good example of the principles I teach them, and when I make mistakes, I will show them that’s okay and change is possible. I will help them know God by talking about Him, talking with Him in prayer together, and giving thanks to Him for all things.

I will learn with them. I will do my best to steer them away from things I know will hurt them. I don’t want to always take the easy road by giving in when I know the harder road will be better for them in the long run. I will also try to allow them to make their own choices (at the appropriate times), as scary and impossible as that seems.

And did I mention loving them? That is my number one goal: to deliberately and intentionally show my children love every day.

Though I never reached my childhood dream of being a star basketball player because I chose to excel in other areas, I realize that I am now living my life-long dream of being a mother, and I intend to choose each day to be the best mom that I can be.

QUESTION: Have you ever chosen mediocrity in one area in order to excel in another?  How can this principle help you to prioritize and find balance as a mother?

CHALLENGE: Choose one specific thing you’re going to start doing with your children that will fit the description of excellence in motherhood for you.

Image by Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.


  1. Denise Williams says

    I love the thought-and though I am a grandmother, the idea of choosing mediocrity helps me to look at all that I am doing and think “I need to make a decision about what I really love and want to invest my time in–excel in. That means I need to choose to be mediocre in other things and let go of wanting to do a little of everything!” If I’m not selective, I will eventually be mediocre in everything. Thanks Ann for your great article!

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