Earlier today I was working with a delightful woman who is between jobs. She wanted support in deciding what her next career move was to be. I asked her what she felt the most valuable thing she could do during this sabbatical period might be. Her face lit up as she answered, “I can give my daughter the attention I don’t usually have time to give.” Whether it is parenting, our relationships, friends, our lifestyle, daily habits, our career, or the garden, bringing a commitment to excellence is a very powerful attitude.
In the early 1980s, excellence became the new corporate buzzword. In their book In Search of Excellence, Peters and Waterman said, “The excellent companies require and demand extraordinary performance from the average person.” Of course what we have learned since then is that excellence doesn’t appear on demand. Excellence is an outer expression of our inner being. The shift from a limited being to an unlimited being is a shift of consciousness. Anything short of such a shift in our consciousness remains an effort of our ego will, and will eventually burn out.
Through the ages mystics speak of all as one. This is the foundation of the spiritual point of view. But how does this translate into our daily lives? By deepening into an awareness of the common ground of all-being, quite naturally we love, honor and respect ourselves and each other. Changing the way we think about ourselves and our world changes the way we take action. Now our action is based on our true values and we can create a life that expresses those values. When you respect your actions, you respect yourself. Just one small change can make the difference between more inertia and feeling stuck to becoming engaged in life in a positive and productive way.
Many years ago, I worked with a woman in a powerful position of authority. However, in her personal life she was feeling out of control and inadequate. She was unhappy with where she was living; with her weight and eating habits; her excessive use of alcohol and her social life, which was almost non-existent due to her very busy work schedule. A year later every single one of these situations had been transformed, even down to a new and lovely home. The shift started when I invited her to get up religiously at six o’clock every day and do twenty minutes of exercise and ten minutes of meditation. But she was only allowed to do it as a sign of her respect for herself and her value. Initially she would often choose not to respect herself in this way but after a short time, it became more uncomfortable to stay in bed for the extra half an hour than to get up and acknowledge her value. This small shift lead to all the other major shifts she made in her life. The more she respected and cared for herself, the more her actions reflected this.
The pursuit of excellence shows up very differently in each of our lives. For some it is about being the very best they can be in a particular activity. For others it is a high degree of success in a particular area. Whatever it may be, it is true excellence when it is driven not by inadequacy but by passion. In other words, do what you truly want to do and not what you think you should do. What are you really passionate about achieving? What is your unique talent? What will your legacy be? So many people I work with have never considered these kinds of questions. Even when asked, they have no idea of what their answers might be. It’s a process that can shift your life from the ordinary to the extraordinary. Initially it can be daunting, even disillusioning to realize that you have never thought of your life in those terms. But the truth is that each one of us has a unique purpose and gift to offer through our life. What is yours?
Developing a personal mission statement can be a very inspiring way of creating a strong spiritual foundation in your life. This can change the quality of your life from something rather meaningless to one filled with purpose and direction. As I so often quote, Teilhard de Chardin said, “We think we are human beings trying to get better. The truth is we are spirit having a human experience.” Informed by a spiritual awareness, who am I and what am I doing here? This human experience is a precious gift and before we know it, it comes to an end. A life lived richly and fully is the process of consciousness evolving. Our personal happiness is an integral part of that evolution. Our dreams and bringing them in to reality, is an integral part of that evolution. As Richard Bach said so inspiringly, you are not given a dream without the means to bring it into fruition.
We all have a special purpose for which we are destined, a particular calling—at this time, more so than ever before. I offer this quote from Goethe for its inspiration: "Until one is committed there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back. Concerning all acts of initiative and creation, the moment one definitely commits oneself, all sorts of things occur to help one that would never have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and material assistance which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or think you can, begin it! Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now."
Overall, our human purpose is to awaken to our true nature and true calling. In each one of us this will have a unique expression and will reflect our perfection of being in individual expressions of excellence. It portrays how the world will be after we have journeyed through it. It is our legacy to this magnificent ever-evolving manifestation of existence.
The stronger your desire for a high quality of life, the stronger your spiritual foundation will need to be. Inner peace contributes to an ability to make wise and purposeful decisions. Vitality and wellness allows for a life lived fully with grace. Satisfaction brings great joy and happiness. Balance allows harmony, and following our passion is to follow our bliss. The great joy in our quest for excellence is that it is about being utterly true to ourselves, and in being true to ourselves we can live extraordinarily.