This post is prompted by two circumstances this week that I feel compelled to speak up about.
First, I opened CNN’s site to update myself on the daily news and saw an article about Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook who says she’s leaves work every day at 5:30 pm and always has done so in her career. Newsworthy? Apparently yes. And, then I realized that as unfortunate as that is, it is newsworthy. I should know, I work with enough professionals to know the behind the scene’s angst at figuring out how to be successful and productive at work while enjoying a whole-life outside of the career. Both could easily absorb 23 hours of 24 everyday. It does require a personal line in the sand about what is “my best” and letting the rest go. In the following CNN column, journalist Pamela Stone writes, “By outing herself and urging others to follow her lead, Sandberg did us all a great service.” This is true for both men and women. Single or married. With kids or without.
The other situation was in the midst of a client conversation about crafting a vision statement that will help this sharp, successful professional to enjoy more of life outside of work. It really does take focus, effort and commitment. The key work that we were working to incorporate was ‘excellence.’ Excellence, not perfection, is what so many of us want to achieve. So, I have some thoughts you may want to consider and reflect on this week.
“Excellence is not a skill. It’s an attitude. Excellence comes not from education, money, ability or connections alone. It comes from a commitment to do the very best with whatever you have available.”
This is the opening stanza of a poem by Ralph Marston, Jr. on the topic of excellence that came to mind during a conversation with a fellow instructor at the club. She had said, “I sure wish our members would give themselves more credit for the wonderful effort they give to their exercise programs. So many forget to give themselves credit for doing the best they can, no matter what anyone else is doing.”
The media and advertisers of all types of products would have you believe that you will never look good enough. You will always hear the message that there’s more you could and should do to improve yourself. Where’s the balanced perspective? The more appropriate question is “Am I doing the best I can?” Pursuing perfection is not the answer to your workout regimen or any other endeavor. Striving for excellence is. The attitude of excellence is a far better measure of success than the pursuit of perfection. Excellent attitudes promote positive behaviors, a grace-filled acceptance of effort and the patient pursuit of goals. Pursuing perfection fuels discontent. Perfectionism calls for extreme efforts and the rigid adherence to expectations and guidelines established by other people who are also discontented. (Therefore, the title of my book, Progress Not Perfection.)
Excellence in work performance or healthy living is a challenge, yet it is a holistic and attainable goal for all of us—no matter how we look. In her book Love Can Build a Bridge, Naomi Judd beautifully describes success and excellence. She said, “Success is achieving or attaining goals that will elevate your importance in society, whereas excellence is striving for quality in your personal work, regardless of whether the culture recognizes it or not . . . excellence is knowing in your heart that you’ve done your absolute best.”
If you’re committed to being as healthy as you can during this particular season of your life, your attitude needs to be hopeful and positive. You can’t feel that way by looking around at other people’s performance or physical attributes.
I’ve probably lost many readers by writing more than 500 words, so I’ll stop here. However, I will post five separate commentaries how on you may want to “be,” if pursuing excellence is your goal.