Excellence is the difference between your current abilities and your maximum potential. People who are committed to excellence are always excelling in thought, speech, skill, attitude, and action. These are people who are determined to reach their full potential by any means necessary and who will settle for nothing less that their personal best.
Here are a few practical ways to achieve excellence in both your personal and professional life:
- Just begin! I am one of those people who have to have all of my ducks in a row before I can begin a project. I love to be prepared. I love having all the information that I need and every available resource at my fingertips. But there’s just one problem: Life is uncertain and sometimes very messy. Things don’t always line up as planned and sometimes you just have to start with what you have. So I’ve learned to just begin and gather what I need during the development process. In fact, researching and collecting as I go is what makes the development process that more enjoyable (for me, at least). There will come a time when you reach the end of that project and then will you have all the necessary resources to make it superb; but first you must begin.
- Set deadlines. It’s very easy for people who have high quality control interests to keep spinning their wheels on a project until they’ve reached “perfection.” The only problem is that perfection doesn’t exist for the fallen human being (i.e., all of us). So don’t torture yourself trying to achieve something that none of us ever will. If you know that you tend towards perfectionism, it’s best to give yourself deadlines so that you can stop “perfecting” and start producing.
- Change your attitude. One of the greatest discoveries of all time is that we have the power to change our own reality by altering the way that we think. Earl Nightingale once said, “Our environment, the world in which we live and work, is a mirror of our attitudes and expectations.” We have, for example, the power to view our “problems” as obstacles or as opportunities for development and discovery. We can see the glass as half empty or half full—same glass, same amount of water, different perspective. Everything in life is a matter of perception, and how we choose to think determines our reality. Excellence and success are in the mind and it all begins with hope.
- Meditate. Meditation is, perhaps, the most important activity in self-development. If we want to grow substantially, we must set aside time to think and reflect on our successes and failures, for there is wisdom to be found in both. And not just on our failures and successes but we should also reflect at length and in depth on our beliefs, goals, values, passions, and purpose. Meditation, I find, is most effective when we designate a certain time each day for this purpose. For me, that time is in the morning during my “quiet time” with God and in the evening when I lie down to go to sleep.
- Identify your limits. There is no sense in trying to strengthen something you’re not intended to be good at. If you’ve repeatedly tried your hand at something in which you are not becoming more proficient, that is often a good sign that the activity is not meant for you. (Notice I said “becoming more proficient.” There are some things that will take a very long time to learn, so we have to exercise patience with ourselves when learning anything new and develop the wisdom to know what is right for us. My focus here is on making progress. There should be some measure of growth in our pursuit of developing new skills and that will help us determine what we should continue to strive for and what we should leave alone.) Allow others to do what you can’t do and focus on fortifying your strengths.
- Follow up. Follow-up skills are particularly important if you work in client service or customer service industries. Patrons like to know that they are not forgotten and therefore valued. Follow-up is a remarkable business development tool and, also, a fantastic skill to develop in your personal life. If you can’t make an appointment, give notice. If you’re running late, say so. Most importantly, if you make a commitment, follow through!
- Keep it simple. Simplicity is the supreme excellence, especially in fashion, fine arts, and technology. Consider Google, for example. Folks go to Google for their searches because Google yields incredible search results and because they know they won’t be bombarded with information when they visit the site. The interface is simple, clean, and very attractive. The same is true with many high-end clothing lines. They keep their designs simple and elegant and that’s what causes them to really stand out. Less really is more.
- Get inspired! I bring distinctive value to organizations and teams that I join because I am a great source of innovation and new ideas. But I will confess: Most of my ideas are not “new” at all. I draw inspiration from everything around me: conversations, literature, pictures, videos—anything that I stumble upon. I store my ideas systematically for later use using tools like email, Evernote, or a good old fashioned notebook. I never really know when those ideas will come in handy, but I can certainly spot a good idea when I see one and I have enough wisdom to write everything down. With a little creativity, I apply old solutions to new situations and the outcome is nothing short of genius. Let life inspire you!
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Excellence is doing ordinary things extraordinarily well. – John W. Gardner