When you read the phrase “habits of excellence” what comes to mind? For much of my life, I gave little thought to excellence. Instead, my goal was perfection, even though I didn’t use that word. I just wanted to get things “right” once in awhile. In that pursuit, the term “right” was code for “perfect” and happened very rarely.
In my mind, I believed that everyone around me was better suited to achieve goals in every area of their lives, while I was inferior and not likely to amount to much. Because I kept telling myself this with my self-talk and actions, it became my reality.
Can you imagine living each day with this mindset? For too many years and for reasons too varied to go into here, I’ll share that my confidence and self-esteem were at all-time lows. My opinion of myself was based on my mistaken belief that I was not smart enough, capable enough, and not “enough” in even the most simple ways. I thought that almost anyone else in the world was more likely to achieve their goals, and more deserving as well.
So, how did think thinking serve me? Not very well, as you can already imagine. My life was one of repetition more than habit. Sometimes, when something special happened in my life I was happy and excited. Soon, those feelings were overshadowed by ones of acceptance that the event had happened by accident and was most likely meant for someone else. I did not understand what it meant to cultivate habits of excellence. I only knew that I was destined for a life of lack and struggle and mediocrity and that’s just how it was going to be.
Also, during these decades I did not take responsibility for what occurred in my daily life experience. I played the victim. It was always someone else’s actions that cause me to feel bad, or to not have what I wanted. If only people would give me a chance, I could get ahead, or so I believed.
In 2005 I had an awakening, literally. I woke up one morning in April of 2005, aware that something was different with my sensory perceptions. Colors were more vivid, sounds more crisp and clear, and the feeling was one I had not experienced before. I came to the sudden, yet powerful realization that change was in the air and that I needed to seize the moment and change my life.
I began asking people I knew if they had any friends who had completely changed their life. Surprisingly, several of them did and this is how I began my journey. I would meet with these people when they had time and in the location they suggested. One couple invited me to go hiking with them in a park where I had been in the past with the Sierra Club.
Every Sunday, at six in the morning we’d meet in the parking lot and hike to the top. You could see all the way to the Pacific Ocean from that point and I looked forward to this. But I did not get to the top right away. Instead, I first had to get used to arising so early on a Sunday morning, and then practice hiking a little further each week. When I did finally make it, these friends began to share lessons with me about goal setting, action habits, and so much more.
They encouraged me to strive for excellence in everything I attempted, in order to reach my full potential. They used the phrase “habits of excellence” with everything they were teaching me.
They had me read some essays from motivational speaker Brian Tracy. He taught that excellence is the condition of surpassing some standards of expectations. Personal excellence is a lifelong process of developing mental and emotional skills to do better and better in all aspects of our lives, and to achieve personal excellence, we need to focus our personal growth and development.
Then, they gave me a copy of Stephen Covey’s book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. He wrote and spoke about “personal excellence” as being the journey of positive development beyond one’s self and is a step by step process of improving oneself in every aspect of life. Although the process is difficult and requires patience but it benefits those who want to live a successful and happy life. Personal excellence is to improve your performance consistently and continuously so that you can improve every aspect of your life – family, education, career, finance, relationship etc. Personal excellence does not reflect perfection and being perfectionist. It is a process of becoming better of oneself, and do better and better in all aspects of life.
They also introduced me to the work of motivation speaker and thought leader Les Brown. He said that to achieve something that you have never achieved before you must become someone that you have never been before. We as an individual, without looking at our personal skills that are the root causes, try to deal with challenges around us which includes work, family, friends, career and finance etc. We grow and succeed only when we have mastery over ourselves.
I began to change, slowly and surely. Then, my life began to change in small ways at first, and then everything I was reading and listening to and absorbing began to take hold. I made the conscious decision to resign from my classroom teaching job at the end of the school year. I wasn’t sure what was ahead for me, but I had faith and an expectation that everything would turn out well.
Within a year, I had met Brian Tracy, Stephen Covey, and Les Brown and studied with them in person. Within another two years, I had shared the stage with Les Brown. Something was shifting inside of me and I was ready for this new life experience.
Cultivating Habits of Excellence is Worthwhile
1. Give everything you have to everything you do. If you set an intention for excellence, you’re on your way to achieving your goals.
2. Position yourself as an expert. Become a “go-to” expert in your field; commit to becoming a lifelong learner. People will not pay much for mediocrity, but they will spend a lot on excellence!
3. Be enthusiastic and excited to be alive! You can achieve great things if you have enthusiasm and are seen as someone with a high level of energy and joie de vivre, which is defined as an exuberant enjoyment of life.
4. Be punctual and reliable. Managed time, punctuality, and reliability will set you apart from others and make you unique as an implementer of habits of excellence.
5. Work smart by using the “80/20” rule. When you understand that 20% of your efforts account for 80% of your results, you’ll make sure to get the important things done, and in less time.
6. Take time to engage in self-care. Focus on healthy productivity and personal growth. You’ll be able to easily sustain excellence when you take time to recharge, retool, and retrain.
7. Serve others with everything you do. Learn how to under promise and over deliver to give other people more than they expect in their interactions with you.
I have found over the years that infusing my mind with written and spoken words from thought leaders I admire is the single most important action I can take to enhance my life experience. Several years ago I invested in a start-up company that provides this type of training. You may come aboard at no cost or obligation at Team Heroic: Optimize. Look for Ben Bergeron’s Chasing Excellence: A Story About Building the World’s Fittest Athletes, How Champions Think in Sports and in Life, by Dr. Bob Rotella, and Daniel Goleman’s Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence once you get inside.
Also, I recommend Forbes Councils Member Svetlana Whitener’s article, “How To Make Excellence A Habit” as further reading.
I’m USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestselling author, entrepreneur, and marketing strategist Connie Ragen Green, cultivating habits of excellence every day with my words and deeds. Come aboard for my Action Habits Challenge at no cost or obligation and continue a journey that you’ve most likely already begun.