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Excellence is a Habit

Many people, myself included, often utter the phrase, “good enough.” The food I ate was good enough. The work I did was good enough. My workout was good enough. In fact, it is easy to slip into a lifestyle of mediocrity. What if, instead, we made the pursuit of excellence a priority in everyday life?

Many people, myself included, often utter the phrase, “good enough.” The food I ate was good enough. The work I did was good enough. My workout was good enough. In fact, it is easy to slip into a lifestyle of mediocrity. What if, instead, we made the pursuit of excellence a priority in everyday life?

Leadership expert Jon Gordon believes that people often confuse success and excellence. Success, says Gordon, is typically measured by comparing oneself with others. Excellence, however, is when an individual works to maximize their gifts and abilities to achieve their highest potential, regardless of others. He goes on to say that our greatest competition is not with others but ourselves. In fact, excellence should be rooted in daily living, and we should strive to be our best in all ways and in every situation. Interestingly, says Gordon, success is often the byproduct of excellence.

So, how do we create excellence? Most experts agree that excellence is created by developing positive habits through practice. Over time, these daily practices move us toward great achievements but most importantly, they help us to realize our full potential.

There is a well-known quote that is often attributed to the famed philosopher Aristotle, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” The quote was actually written by early 20th-century writer Will Durant in his book, The Story of Philosophy: The Lives and Opinions of the World’s Greatest Philosophers. The full quote reads:

“Excellence is an art won by training and habituation: we do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have these because we have acted rightly; ‘these virtues are formed in man by his doing the actions’; we are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit: ‘the good of man is a working of the soul in the way of excellence in a complete life… for as it is not one swallow or one fine day that makes a spring, so it is not one day or a short time that makes a man blessed and happy”.

Adam Sicinski, the founder of the leadership blog IQ Matrix, writes that to achieve your goals, you need to commit to the pursuit of excellence. He goes on to say that when a person excels at something, they perform at a level far above average. The problem, says Sicinski, is that measuring excellence is sometimes difficult because it is subjective. For example, one person’s definition of an outstanding job can be very different from another’s, though both could be correct in many instances.

Sicinski believes that living a life in pursuit of excellence means to make a positive difference in the lives of others and that you should willingly share your expertise and enthusiasm. Also, that you should work to leave a legacy behind that will positively impact the world. According to Sicinski, some key actionable steps anyone can take toward pursuing excellence are:

• Set clearly defined goals.
• Let go of the negative thoughts that are keeping you stuck and feeling miserable.
• Follow through on the promises you make to yourself and others.
• Avoid the pitfalls of procrastination, perfectionism, and instant gratification.
• Maintain high levels of energy through proper diet, exercise, and adequate sleep.
• Keep your motivation levels primed at all times to help you get through difficult periods of your life.
• Plan ahead by anticipating potential setbacks and problems in advance.

We all have choices as individuals. We can choose to focus on success and competition and pursue things that we think will make us happy such as material wealth and career accolades, or we can choose excellence. Pursuing excellence involves striving to be our best in everything we do regardless of what others are doing. Whether our job is pushing a mop, delivering mail, or performing surgery, we can choose to do our best. By choosing excellence, we are contributing to the greater good, and we are choosing to serve others instead of competing with them.