“Whoever I am, or whatever I am doing, some kind of excellence is within my reach.” – John W. Gardner
This is the second article in a personal excellence series. The first article was, Personal excellence, the elevator to success.
This article succintly elaborates the most fundamental ideas towards personal excellence. These ideas include – creating an effective mind – building self-discipline – the correct vision towards excellence – why time management is a way to excellence – how to acquire spirit of persistence – why you need the spirit of hard work – why is self-awareness a necessity towards excellence – and how to make best use of your fears towards excellence.
First, before we begin to touch on these subjects, I would like to touch on the most sensitive subject that is probably the foundation of everything in your life – the mind. With the good nurtured mind come these habits.
You must understand that an effective mind is a prerequisite to practice excellence. That way, you can easily better your best.
Now, what is an effective mind?
The mind is effective if it successfully holds to the habit and produce a desired or intended result. For your mind to be effective, you must acquire effective habits.
Do you know the secret of acquiring an effective habit? Well, it’s simple – practice it. Yes, practice it many times repeatedly. The only magic behind excellence is to cultivate and nurture effective and productive patterns. If you want to achieve results, acquire habits that lead to results. In other words, train your mind to be effective. If you go do that, effective habits will ingrain in you and become your second nature.
Imagine, how can you become successful if you avoid hard work? How can you improve your life if you are irresponsible? How can you be in good shape without exercising? How can you be effective in time management if you keep procrastinating? How can you accomplish goals if you do not plan your life?
You see, all these are habits, your mind get to acquire them when you stop being effective. The mind feeds on whatever thought is easily available. If you don’t filter what comes in your mind, you end up with bad habits – that is, mostly garbage. In turn, those thoughts lay rich soil to nurture more bad habits, for instance addictions, indolence, procrastination, and others.
To nurture an effective mind, regularly feed it with empowering ideas of success, growth, and improvement. In doing so, you continuously create the right attitude towards excellence and you can easily go beyond your normal expectations.
“If you are going to achieve excellence in big things, you develop the habit in little matters. Excellence is not an exception, it is a prevailing attitude.” – Colin Powell
That statement says it all.
Now, you might know successful people whose achievements may boggle your mind and defy your imaginations. You might wonder what do they do so different to achieve such greatness? Well, that’s a good question.
To make sense, let me rephrase it. What traits do great people have that you can also acquire to clear your way to success?
It is a fact that to be successful, you must copy how successful people do things and behave. You can be successful in any endeavor if you copy how they do it.
One thing you must notice is that, all successful people are excellent in whatever they do. Their excellence is due to the extraordinary habits they possess.
You can also join the group, just by learning and practicing the effective habits in whatever you do. The benefits of doing this is three folds. First, you replace unproductive patterns with productive patterns. Second, you ensure effective and lasting changes to your life in a long run. Third, you learn and experience the best side of life, that way you can easily break free from any addiction in your life – you become the ideal self.
Here is a list of effective habits for excellence.
Self-discipline is a recurring theme in most of the topics because it underlies all achievements in your life. Nothing is possible without self-discipline. Certainly, for practicing personal excellence, you require enormous amounts of self-discipline.
If you don’t have it yet, don’t despair. You don’t need that whole amount at first, you can gradually improve on the little you have right now. The most important thing is to aim at improvements.
Do you have the right self-discipline?
Self-discipline is vital to but it shouldn’t be the first weapon to attack your challenges. Think for a moment, when do you need to enforce discipline? It is only when all other means fail. That is, you lack the necessary motivation, initiative, focus, persistence, patience, hard work, and others. Finally, you resort to self-discipline.
If you struggle to carry out simple routine then that’s the alarm right there. You need to fix it immediately.
Observe yourself. Do you accomplish goals on time? Are you effective? Do you prioritize goals? Do you have follow a plan or act on impulse? Do you procrastinate?
If you lack the necessary self-discipline, don’t despair. Knowing and accepting the fact is the first step towards change for the better.
How to acquire the necessary self-discipline
You must follow the two rules to acquire the necessary self-discipline in any area of your life.
Rule 1: Practice effective habits all the time, everywhere, no excuses, no exceptions
Rule 2: Never, ever, break Rule 1.
Clayton M. Christensen in his paper How will you measure your life, said, “It’s easier to hold to your principles 100% of the time than it is to hold to them 98% of the time.” This theory proves true in all lifestyles.
To practice excellence, you must uphold the right self-discipline 100% of the time. Otherwise, you will never make it, I repeat you will never make it. Train your brain to take things seriously, practice and do the right thing all the time. Never allow temptation to win you to its side.
Which discipline do you need?
You need discipline in all areas of your life. To achieve greatness, you must get rid of all the unproductive patterns. You can only achieve that by breaking free from bad habits in all areas. However, to mention a few, you must build the right self-discipline in goal setting, hard work, persistence, time management, and healthy habits. Some of these are explained below.
2. Clear Vision of the Future
Excellence entails having a purpose to live for. Having a purpose to live for means you must know what you want in life. You can’t reach a destination you don’t know; first, you must identify it.
To achieve excellence, do the following:
i. Set goals
Goals define your life. They become your purpose. To be effective, you must know which goals are important in life.
In the book Your Inner Child Is Calling I said, there are three kind of goals, short-term, medium-term, and long-term goals. They are all necessary. They all have impacts, thought their significance in your life vary tremendously. The most crucial goals are long-term. These are more significant and mostly life determinant. You must focus on them to lead a meaningful life.
Nothing worthwhile comes if you don’t plan ahead of time. Successful people have a clear vision in life. Take an example, education is a long-term, gaining skill in career is a long-term plan, starting a company is a long-term plan, starting a happy family is a long-term plan. You can’t have short term plans to achieve any of the above goals.
Here is why you must have long-term perspectives:
a) You get better focus of life and what is important
b) You delay gratifications and do what brings long-term positive changes to your life
c) It is the best way to grab all lucrative opportunities
d) It is the best way to lead a meaningful and fulfilling life
ii. Plan your life
Create plan to meet your goals. A plan serves as a roadmap. Do not underestimate the activity of planning because it is so crucial in to your life. Make it a habit to periodically plan your day, week or month in advance. This simple task will raise you to greatness within no time.
To hint out, a plan is necessary because it serves to:
- Avoid foreseeable adversities,
- Determine the resources necessary to accomplish the tasks
- Prioritization and time saving
- Evaluation and feedback to improve on your original plan and move closer to the outcome
iii. Take action
Follow your plan, do the necessary every day. Evaluate yourself periodically and improve on what you do whenever necessary. The most important thing is to persist in terms of challenges and periodically evaluate your progress. Make sure you maximize your potential, give your best and efficiently accomplish all necessary tasks.
3. Time management
Time management is key to leading a purposeful life. You improve time management skills by effectively planning and prioritizing your tasks on daily basis. If you cannot manage your time well then you can’t be effective. Efficiency starts with time management.
Efficiency is determined by the quality of work done within a fixed time. Don’t confuse quality with quantity. Quality is what matters, because that determines the quality of the outcome.
To be effective, plan your day, week, or month; prioritize tasks from the most important to least important; complete all the top priority tasks first. Do not let anything distract you, unless it is more important than what you are doing. That way, you get the most benefit from the day’s time which lead to effective outcomes in a longer period.
4. The Spirit of Persistence
“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated failures. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.” – Calvin Coolidge
Persistence is the ability to be patient with continuous action when there is nothing else to motivate you towards reaching your desires. Persistence is not always easy but worth the efforts.
Persistence is all about the mind. When your mind is fixed to your desires, you’ll certainly persist.
To formula for persistence is simple in theory but a bit tricky in practice. It can be put like
Persistence = Patience + Right Action + Courage – (Fear of failure + Limiting beliefs)
It may seem simple, but it’s not. This is the part when your effective mind has to play a major role. Your mind is key in all these areas. They are not physical. All the limitations are virtual. if you train your mind to be patient and have courage to go through challenges, you make it strong to persist.
That may not be all, you still need to purge your limiting beliefs and fear of failure. Once you are free from these two pests, you can easily persist.
Remember, you get better with practice. Persist and you will get to improve and ingrain the positive habits of persistence.
With persistence, nothing can be impossible. You just have to know how to go about it, accommodate necessary changes to make sure you aren’t sabotaging yourself and head to avoidable failures.
5. The Spirit of Hard Work
Hard work is a virtue and a core of excellence. Without hard work excellence is just a fantasy. Nothing worthwhile comes free in life. To achieve greatness, the spirit of hard work becomes a necessity.
How do you define hard work?
Most people love quick and easy fixes for their lives. That may work at times, but the solution they offer is not permanent. You cannot build a strong house that withstands the test of time on top of a weak foundation. It cannot be done.
If you love quick fixed, chances are, you will certainly lack self-discipline in many more areas of your life. To change that, you must fix it.
Hard work is the one that is challenging and give the room to grow. It is the way to achieve the best and build the strong foundation for acquiring anything in life. If you habituate to hard work, you are likely to enjoy what you do.
If you have the right spirit for hard work, it becomes simple, but not easy. Simple is better but easy does not create a character.
However, do not confuse hard work with discomfort; it’s far from that. Hard work is a dirty word for people of lesser characters, who certainly find excellence as something they cannot aim at, because their desires aren’t worth the efforts.
Hard work requires a lot of self-discipline. To acquire it, practice it. It is like any other habit, it gets better with practice. Eventually you will find hard work rewarding and worth the price.
Hard work can produce results in any endeavor. However, you easily get the best by doing what empowers your strength. This point is well elaborated in self-awareness below.
The large part of growing to your ideal state of personal excellence involves understanding yourself. In fact, to excel in life, you must recognize both your strength and weakness. These are crucial if you need to be effective with use of little effort to excel in your life.
Know your strength
There are benefits to knowing and using your strengths. First, you seek and do a career that supports your strength. That way, you are likely to be exhilarated with whatever you do in your life. You will lead a life that is more satisfying, stimulating, and empowering. Second, you will be more confident of your own potentials for success by doing what suits you. When you are at the right career, you don’t strain for excellence, it comes naturally.
Remember, you can excel in any endeavor, but you will shine easily in doing what supports you and suits you who you are. That is life in itself.
Know your weakness
Even better, you must know your weaknesses – and we all have them. Once you know your innate weakness, you can avoid circumstances that compromise your potential by subjecting you at risk of letting your weakness break you. That way you trade carefully. You can avoid career that let you use your weakness, unless it is a temporary one to lead you to the better one.
Improve the quality of your decisions
Knowing yourself has many advantages, part of which includes making better decisions that improve your life.
Every day, you make critical decisions concerning your lives. During the process, you may unknowingly be enforcing your weaknesses instead of your strengths. To develop effective habits, you must always make decisions that enforce your strength, not your weakness.
In the book, Personal Development For Smart People, when elaborating on self-awareness the author Steve Pavlina said, “When you make a decision from a certain state of mind and act upon them, you reinforce that state, thereby increasing the likelihood you’ll respond similarly in the future.”
That entails you must avoid making decisions from the lower states of awareness. These include all states crowded with emotions, either of excitement or sadness, anger, depression, envy, jealousy or any others.
To build awareness, make decisions from the higher state of awareness when your thinking is coherent and you have enough information to arrive at the correct decision possible.
7. Know How To Use Fear
“Fear of failure becomes fear of success for those who never try anything new.”
The idea of fear is two folds. First it can the worst thing and break you. Second, it can be your best ally and serve you. You must know how to channel your fears to help you elevate yourself to greatness.
We all have fears. Being completely fearless is being naïve. You must be bold and avoid all internal resistance when it comes to embarking on an important goal. In this situation, fear will break you, because you will never even dare to start the journey towards your desires. A quote goes
“There are times when fear is good. It must keep its watchful place at the heart’s controls.” – Aeschylus
However, fear has its good use, and this one is worth embracing. You must be very fearful to acquire and indulge in ineffective habit. Be fearful to compromise what you uphold. Be fearful to break your own rules and do what will cost you. That is the right way fear.