Achieving a state of excellence in at least one sphere of our lives, I believe, is a universal yearning. It allows us to leave our mark or establish a legacy so that we may believe that we won’t be easily forgotten when we’re gone. It also feeds a need to constantly improve where we’re at in life. Aspiring to a new level of achievement in at least one sphere in which we believe we have a unique talent often gives us reason to face a new day.
Some start out in search of fame and focus their efforts on doing what they believe will be admired by others. So focused are they on what their intended audience wants, that they easily forget where their passion lies. The old adage of not going out in search of your love, but instead doing what you love and letting your love find you echoes through the air. But again, we’re so lacking in self-worth that unless there is visible acknowledgement and appreciation for what we do, we often abandon important pursuits because we thought no one cared.
The pursuit of excellence cannot be relative to the whims or dictates of others. It has to be more sincere than that. The conviction to achieve that excellence must be grounded in a heartfelt passion to improve the state of something that you personally experienced and wish to improve for others. If such a pursuit is directed at an outcome that benefits only you, you will be left wanting when you’ve achieved it, only to lament the time wasted in getting to a point that promised fulfilment but instead only fed your ego.
The ego. We keep getting back to that thing that robs us of so much. What could be wholesome is often discarded if we don’t see a benefit in it for us. Worse than this, we sometimes discard efforts simply because it may benefit someone that we believe is undeserving of such benefit. When we do this, we need to realise that it’s not excellence that we pursuit, but gratification.
Gratification is the outcome of a pursuit, not the purpose. Like I mentioned before about humility and happiness being an outcome of something else, so is gratification. The moment we enter a cycle looking to get something out, we lose sight of our true potential to contribute towards something that is larger than ourselves. Live with conviction, and ensure that your conviction is well-informed, and you’ll find that every outcome, no matter how insignificant it may seem, will leave a legacy of benefit for everyone that came into contact with you during your lifetime.
We all desire excellence, and to be associated with excellence, but we’re often too distracted to notice how our chosen path detracts from that excellence that we desire. We must be willing to contribute selflessly towards the outcome of something that won’t benefit us directly before we can hope to benefit indirectly from the fruits of such an effort. The irony is that we lose both when we start out with a selfish end in mind.
The moment we demand to be served with excellence, a moment’s reflection on the motivation of the one that serves us will reveal that they do so out of obligation or perhaps even fear. That leaves empty the need for significance as a human being. It only fulfils the desire for authority or the imposition of our will. But imposing our will on others is never fulfilling because we know that without such authority or power, we will be neglected or discarded because the value of our contribution will be insignificant. For this reason, among many others, the need for acceptance and appreciation as a human being, independent of any authority or political influence that we may yield, has driven many to do dastardly deeds in moments when they gave up hope of being appreciated simply for who they are.
The desire for excellence has to begin with the desire to perfect our contribution to this world. If it is tied to a clearly envisioned higher purpose, it makes it that much more powerful. However, many struggle to see their contribution as relevant within a context beyond their immediate lives. If this is true for you, then start by ensuring that you do not leave anyone or anything in a state worse than what it or they were before you touched them. Excellence is the habit that prompts us towards the elusive goal of perfection. It’s the pursuit of it that inspires us to be more, while its attainment (if indeed it can be attained) makes us complacent.
Seek to ensure that whatever you touch, or whoever’s lives you impact, you leave it in a better state than it was before you got there. And if you are unable to do so, then at least do not incur harm instead.