If you consult a western dictionary you will find excellence defined as “surpassing ordinary” or the “state or quality of being exceptionally good”. These definitions are fair descriptions, but they are not particularly inspiring. They can conjure up imagesof relentless striving, competitiveness and arbitrary standards of other-imposed measurement.
Still, I can’t deny that I love the experience of excellence and mastery. I love both the attainment and the process; the joy of learning and being inspired and the joy of discovering and implementing new skills.
The Greek word ‘arete’ captures this spirit of excellence more completely. Arete is defined as “outstanding fitness for purpose” and “the act of living up to one’s full potential”. In this understanding, excellence includes abilities and potentialities. Excellence in this context moves beyond being an evaluation of a present state to include the quality of our inherent creative potential.
Travelling further east we find the Arabic term “ihsan”, meaning “perfection or excellence”. Ihsan translates literally as “taking one’s inner faith and showing it in deeds and actions”, but is often described more eloquently as “to do beautiful things”.This description of excellence, I think, trumps them all.
In honour of the pursuit of doing “beautiful things”, here are 10 ways to grow your “excellence” in whichever field you choose.
- Start from wherever you are at. You have heard it said before that to get started, all you have to do is start. One of the thoughts that can paralyse in starting a new endeavour is thinking you have to go right back to the “beginning”. This can feel overwhelming. In reality, there are no beginnings and there are no endings. All consciousness is continuous and everything is connected energetically. We choose beginnings and endings as arbitrary points which assist us in focussing and managing components. This is very useful.
Be aware that where you are at is perfectly supported by the myriad of skills, talents and gifts that exist within you now. Your whole life experience is supporting you in this moment and is the perfect resource pool for where you want to go.
- Get to know your good bits. Your skills, talents and gifts are great resources. They are like your own personal team-mates in the great game of life. It will pay you to spend more time with them and get better acquainted. Ask yourself some questions:
- What am I good at?
- What do people compliment me on?
- What activities come easily to me?
- What do I do, that no-one has to remind me to do?
- What do I love doing?
- What inspires me?
- If there was no reason otherwise, what would I go and learn?
- Go surfing. Take the energy of the things that inspire you and the things that you are good at and work with these energies to create momentum. Dedicate some time each day to these skills even if it is only in little ways.
If one of your skills is writing and you don’t have much time, you could write a well worded email to a friend. Or write a poem in your head as you go about your day. If you are good at cooking you could choose to cook a favourite with an inspiring twist or do some research and come up with something completely different. Even saying “hello” to the neighbours or smiling at the local cashier will strengthen your relationship skills.
The idea here is to do something you enjoy and find easy to do and to do more of it.
- Enjoy the glow. Take time to assimilate and integrate the “good” feeling of having done something you enjoyed. Shut your eyes and reflect or contemplate. Too often we run unhappy memories through our minds but we can forget to savour the happy ones. How did doing what you did, make you feel? Bask in this feeling and enjoy not only the memory but the healthy cocktail of chemicals which are generated in your body at the same time. What other inspiring thoughts come to you? Write them down. In what ways could you improve on this experience or expand it?
- Come clean! Having awareness of our skills, talents and moments of success in life is important. It provides us with a greater sense of empowerment and confidence, especially when starting something new. At the same time, it is important to own our weaknesses. Any structure is only as strong as its weakest link. This exercise can be done in relationship to life in general or in relationship to a particular goal.
- Ask yourself:
- What skills would I like to develop?
- What am I not good at?
- What do I avoid doing, even though I know that it is of benefit?
- What could I be better at, that would support me?
- In what area of my life do I experience the most pain?
- What are the things that I have to be reminded to do?
- What did I most feel criticised for as a child?
Remember through all of this that your weaknesses are only skills you have not yet taken the time to develop.