“I can’t go back to yesterday because I was a different person then.”
Alice in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
Mindset to Improve
Are you ready to improve?
Wanting to improve and improving are not the same. Even if you do change, can you sustain the new habit or routine?
Sustaining change efforts assumes we understand change as a requirement. What a slippery fellow change becomes once we set it in motion. Like stretching out a rubber band—once you let go, it reverts to the original shape. But if you stretch long enough, the rubber band never returns to the original form.
New habits or routines need constant stretching, persistent pulling. You keep creating new shapes that make it hard to return to where you began. This reality applies to individuals as much as it does organizations.
No other path exists. To achieve your goals and show results, adopt a mindset of continuous improvement. Good is not good enough. I have not found another way to get there.
“Begin with the end in mind is based on the principal that all things are created twice.”
Stephen R. Covey, The Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People
You must first see things in your mind’s eye before we can create them in the real world. What do you see? Can you hold the rubber band of change taut long enough sustain improvement?
Aim for Excellence
“Next to excellence, comes the appreciation of it.”
William M. Thackeray
When you think of excellence, do you think of something outstanding—of quality, the very best? But excellence is not a steady state. When you strive for excellence, you do something different. You go beyond the expected. We don’t meet the standard. We set the standard.
We need to get one thing straight—reaching excellence is not a destination. If we take on that mindset, disappointment and disillusionment will invade your thinking. You may harbor a sense of hopelessness. Yes, that sounds quite harsh. You can’t approach your goal to get better as if once you arrive, you’re done. The word continuous means you keep changing—always moving toward your goal.
One thing I have learned in my quest toward better every day:
“Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of good.”
Perfection is an admirable goal, or so I thought. I was wrong. Perfection is not the goal. Doing my best every day, whatever that best is for that day. This has been the hardest lesson and one that I wish I had understood much earlier in my life.
What does it mean to do your best every day? Our best changes from day to day. Some days my best may explode to breakthrough performance—excellence.
Other days, my best may be sitting at my desk and opening my journal and writing only a few words. Or strumming on the guitar, playing the piano for a few minutes.
What counts is consistency. Showing up every day. Ready to give and be my best.
Show up consistently.
Do my best.
Excellence may not occur with great fanfare. Rather, you reach excellence through small consistent steps. For the athlete, striving trumps arriving. Being at the top of your game isn’t always enough. Sooner or later someone will do something different. You must stretch your thinking and practice new skills that make you better.
Excellence occurs when you have ownership and intent.
You learn to see problems through the eyes of others. Try understanding and identifying with the interests and needs of others. Acknowledge and respond to their view of the world—not just our own. You learn to see the same situation from different perspectives.
Mindset for Excellence
“Excellence does not show up on your doorstep and ask to come in!”
Harry Paul, John Britt, and Ed Jent, Who Kidnapped Excellence?
Improvement grows as you begin to think differently about change. You must invite change. When you do, you will examine your work and the results of that work. We all look for ways to improve our personal and professional activities. What differentiates those who do and those who don’t?
Approach your improvement with purpose and intention. That makes all the difference. If you make change a priority, take an honest look at your actions.
Do you strive for excellence? Consider these questions.
- Do you know what excellence looks like?
- Are you ready to accept change?
- Is your team ready to accept that excellence requires change?
- How will you ensure improvement becomes the way you thinks and go about your work?
- How will you hold yourself accountable for excellence?
- How will you celebrate the small wins and the breakthrough moments?
Take the first step, then the next. Remember to start with purpose and intent. Do your best each day.