I have been committed to self-improvement since my teen years. Personal growth – including lifelong learning – has become a day-to-day habit for me over the last forty years. It has allowed me to be effective at a wide variety of interests during my life. It has also led me to learn and grow as a husband, father, and friend.
A word that is often overused in the current culture is “perfect.” You send an invite to someone for a meeting and they respond “perfect.” You hand someone a draft of an article and you get the same response. Ask someone how their day is going and again, “Perfect.”
The use of the word “perfect” in most contexts aggravates me. Why? Because there is a large difference between being committed to the process of personal excellence and perfect. Personal excellence is a lifelong journey. Perfect is a temporary destination.
In my view, at least with regard to personal growth, perfect does not exist in the world we live in. In heaven, perfect is likely. But it is not to be found on this earth. Perfect implies that things are as good as they can be. It indicates that the journey is done. It suggests that things can’t get any better.
Seeking personal excellence should be part of every person’s journey through life. It is the key to being a successful person. No matter what your achievements are thus far, continuing to strive for excellence in your life is important and necessary for personal growth.
Over time I have accumulated a list of things that lead to personal excellence. This list is by no means complete. It can be added to or items can be deleted. But it is a starting point and a good way to evaluate whether you are on track to maximize your personal excellence.
- Value Personal Excellence. I define personal excellence as the process of becoming the best you that you can be. It means taking the talents you were created with and going through the process of growing and improving. Valuing personal excellence means that you are committed to spending the time required to improve yourself on a regular basis.
- Grow into Your Potential. Each of us has more talent and potential than we can possibly realize. However, both society and our education system program us to fit in and not pursue our talents. Instead, figure out what you are passionate about. Try new things until you find something that you are gifted in. Don’t let what others think derail you from maximizing your talents and passion.
- Pay Attention to Detail. To be honest, this is not my strength, but it is still important. Especially regarding things that really matter. Learn to focus on detail in important things. If you aren’t good at detail, double check everything.
- Commit to What Lasts. This means being committed to family and friends. Hopefully it also means you have found a spiritual anchor in our Creator. Relationships are the only thing that we can take with us. A life based on material possessions and just having fun is not lasting. The fact is, the person with the best relationships, not the most things, is the real winner in life.
- Exhibit Integrity. Be ethical in your dealings with people. Treat others the same way you want to be treated. Be honest and tell the truth. Make sure that your word is your word.
- Respect Others. Show genuine respect for others. Treat others as though they are more important than you are. Listen carefully when others are speaking. Take an interest in those you are with.
- Maximize Your Effort. Give 100% and then go the extra mile. Always do your best. Do everything you can to make everything you touch a success. If you don’t succeed, make sure the reason is never that you didn’t do your best.
- Be Consistent. This is one of the hardest things to master. Do your best to try to even out the ups and downs. Develop processes around repetitive things so they always get done in the same way. Deliver quality work. Make sure that people – especially family and friends – can depend on you.
- Constantly Improve. Be dedicated to lifelong learning and lifetime improvement. Internalize the idea that you are always willing to be smarter tomorrow than you are today. Value learning and new challenges. Approach obstacles as learning experiences and a chance to reflect on your future direction.
- Be Active. Move fast. Walk quickly. Complete mundane tasks with energy and speed. Take the stairs. Park far from the entrance. Participate instead of watching. Actively enjoy your day-to-day experiences. Move with purpose and energy.
- Make Personal Excellence a Lifestyle. Value self-improvement. Learn from the past and focus on the future. Get better every day. Spend time with those closest to you. Take on new challenges and new roles.
This is by no means a complete list. Feel free to add your own items to it. The point of the list is to motivate you to do a lot of small things that will make you a better and happier person.
None of us will master all the things on this list – or on any list. Some items will be easy for you; some will be more of a challenge. Your list might be different than mine.
The point is that personal excellence – or personal growth if you prefer that term – is a journey. It is a venture that we should be on for the rest of our lives. That is why I dislike the word “perfect.” Perfect implies completion. In my mind, we aren’t complete until the day we leave this earth.
If you haven’t focused on self-improvement before, be guided by the simple exercise of getting better each and every day. You might ask yourself the question at the end of each day, “What did I learn or improve in today?”
If you can develop a sense of getting better each day, then you will live a rich and abundant life. You will be happy and fulfilled. And you will be amazed over time how many new and exciting experiences you will enjoy as you trek on the journey of life.