Striving for excellence or settling for mediocrity: which are you doing?

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Being successful is something most people strive for, whether it’s success in a relationship, success in a job, or success in a sport. But, have you stopped to consider that striving only for success means you’re striving for mediocrity?

“When you have had a taste of excellence, you cannot go back to mediocrity.”
Maximillian Degenerez

Why shouldn’t we strive for success?

A successful relationship is one that hasn’t failed. Being successful in a job means you’re doing what is expected of you. Success in a sport means winning.

Is that what we should really be striving for in life?

  • Wouldn’t you rather an excellent relationship as opposed to merely a “successful” one?
  • Wouldn’t you rather excel at your job rather than simply show up and do what is expected of you?
  • Wouldn’t you rather play the best game of your life, than play a mediocre game and win?

Success comes from attaining goals and from achieving outcomes better than others by comparison. Success is absolute. You can achieve success in all of the examples above without being excellent at any of them.

You can also be excellent at each of them, and still not be successful.

“Excellence is being able to perform at a high level over and over again. You can hit a half-court shot once. That’s just the luck of the draw. If you consistently do it… that’s excellence”.

Excellence is far more fulfilling and rewarding than success. It’s about maximizing your potential, and pursuing quality, whether recognized or not. Excellence is internal—you set the bar for achievement, and you determine if you are reaching your potential or not. Having a successful relationship can be seen by those on the outside. Having an excellent relationship is only something that you can know. Excellence is reaching your potential each and every day.

When it comes to excellence, the only limitations we have are what we set ourselves—it’s relative, not absolute. Striving for excellence, not success, means striving for a state of being, not an outcome. Playing a game excellently and losing should be far more rewarding that playing an average game and winning.

“Excellence is not a skill, it’s an attitude”
Ralph Marston

Success can come overnight, and you can take shortcuts to get there. Excellence takes time, and dedication—you can’t cheat your way to it. But, here’s the rub: we never truly achieve excellence, because we can always do better—we can continue to improve.

“Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.”
Vince Lombardi

Excellence is not, however, to be confused with perfection. Perfection is unattainable. Striving for perfection, instead of excellence, only serves as an obstacle to greatness. Excellence tolerates mistakes and failures, perfection does not.

How can you demonstrate excellence, both personal and in the workplace?

  1. See the good in all that you do
    There is no such thing as perfection. There’s always going to be some things you don’t like or enjoy, whether it’s in a job, a relationship, a sport. Excellence involves making your personality fit into a less-than-perfect situation. Be mentally committed to focus on solutions, not problems. Remove the negativity from your thinking.
  2. Be OK to risk failing
    Take a risk and be willing to see what are the consequences of your decisions. If you never take any risks, you’ll never reach excellence.
    Excellent people don’t take the safest route – that’s what other people do. To get what you want, you have to go for what you want. Nothing of any real significance happens to people who are satisfied with the status quo.
  3. Work hard and work smart…consistently
    People are not born with excellence, and very few who attained excellence did it without working hard and smarter than others, to get there. Consistently work hard at whatever you do. It’s that simple.
  4. Always aim higher
    Never be satisfied with achieving a goal. Use goals to motivate you – to spark your curiosity – for what could be the next step. Set yourself higher goals. Excellence is a result of continuous improvement. It’s is a journey, not a destination.
  5. Be passionate
    Don’t underestimate your ability to be passionate about your work. Even the most mundane task can be work you are proud of and want to excel at. Passion ignites your desire to work hard. When passion is present, there are no limits.
  6. Be aware of your strengths and weaknesses
    You cannot get where you want to go alone. Sometimes you need to ask for help. Choosing to delegate tasks to others who are more skilled in your weaker areas is a sign of excellence. For example, if you need to hire the right person for the job, and you do not have hiring skills, outsource it to an expert. It’s OK to ask for help.
  7. Nurture relationships
    If a relationship is important to you, whether it’s personal or professional, nurture it. Spend time with people, listen deeply, invest in them, help them be successful and offer feedback.
  8. Seek feedback
    Feedback is knowledge to grow from. Feedback can help you recognize blind spots and opportunities to grow. Feedback can be a gift.
  9. Avoid procrastination
    You don’t procrastinate – nobody does. But you do make poor decisions – decisions that can impact relationships, your self-esteem, goals and definitely your ability to seek excellence. Recognize patterns of postponing a task from Thursday to Friday and then to next week. A few minutes prioritizing and reducing a list of 20 things to your top three can make all the difference.
  10. Expand on your knowledge
    Continuous learning broadens your horizons. Never become complacent with your existing knowledge. There are books and blogs to read, podcasts to listen to and apps to download that can widen your horizons, spark new ideas, grow your confidence and keep you growing on your path to excellence.

Strive for excellence rather than settling for mediocrity. Become one of the select few who considers success common and commit to excellence in everything you do. Your life will be richer, your work will have more impact and you’ll never wonder what could have been.

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