Now there’s a word that packs some punch.
When I hear the word, I think of an athlete running in slow motion to the theme song from Chariots of Fire. I think of an orator painstakingly reworking and rehearsing the speech he will be giving to throngs of spectators. I think of a student burning the midnight oil, determined to master a subject that still eludes her.
These are iconic images of people making the most of their talents, working hard, and persevering in the face of challenges. But excellence is for us, too. When we’re in the middle of our daily shuffle of meetings, proposals, budgets, reports, and staffing issues, it’s helpful to have a standard to focus on.
We get mixed signals about what our professional standard should be. We know we’re not supposed to try to be perfect, and it’s impossible, anyway. But if we do away with perfectionism, what’s left in its place? A lot of us seem to be afraid we’ll swing to the other extreme, into shoddy work and carelessness.
This is where excellence comes in. Imagine a spectrum where one end is perfectionism and the other end is carelessness. Excellence is the sweet spot somewhere in the middle where we’re doing our very best and also not holding ourselves to an unrealistic, paralyzing standard. It doesn’t allow for shoddy work or half-assed output, but it does leave room for occasional human error and honest mistakes.
Excellence provides a hand rail, a target, a north star that we can hold onto as we’re cruising through our to-do lists.
How does excellence differ from both perfectionism and carelessness? What does excellence look like? How can we practice excellence in our daily work lives?
Stay tuned for an exploration of these and other topics related to professional excellence in upcoming blog posts.
For now, just think about the word ‘excellence’ as it relates to your work. Notice how it feels and what thoughts come up for you.