Excellence is the quality of being outstanding or extremely good at something. Often excellence can be framed in elitist terms, something reserved only for the very best in any field. However, it might be more helpful to think of excellence in personal terms, in terms of being the very best that you can be in any particular endeavour, or, in life in general.
We can think of excellence as a practice and a pursuit. We strive for excellence not only in order to achieve excellence but also because the very effort to learn and improve is rewarding and fulfilling.
From this point of view, the pursuit of excellence is simply the practice of improvement, of getting better at a particular task or activity. It is a ‘growth mindset’ in which we are constantly looking for ways to get better at something or to master something. This very effort is engaging and facilitates the experience of flow states, where we function optimally.
What activities, pursuits and passions would you like to dedicate energy and attention to improving at? The possibilities are endless: Performance at work, in relationships, sports, hobbies, an art or craft, games – perhaps even the performance of life itself, the art of living.
The pursuit of excellence in any of these areas simply requires the willingness to learn. The practice of excellence involves a continuous cycle of action and reflection. There is an art to everything we do. Even washing the dishes or cleaning can be done in a good or bad way. When we want to improve our abilities and performance in some area we must first be willing to give our full attention and effort to what we are doing, to treat it with utmost care and consideration. Then we reflect on how it went (What went well, what needs improving) and carry this new learning forward into the next action.
Pick at an activity or area of life in which you wish to improve. Pay close attention to how you perform this activity. Afterwards, take a moment to reflect on the following:
What went well?
What are my strengths in this area?
What are some of the areas in which I need to improve? What skills or abilities do I need to develop?
What could I do differently to improve my performance? Is there a different approach I could take? Are there new ideas I could put into practice?
How can I bring this learning into the next action phase?
Then return to the practice or action before coming back to reflect on any development or changes in the next reflective phase.