The Arduous Path toward Excellence

What makes achieving excellence challenging in any domain in life?

To begin with, it is ABNORMAL.

It is against our instincts.

That’s right – it is NORMAL to be lazy! In fact, laziness is an effective survival strategy under certain circumstances… WHEN might that be? Let’s take a look:

Consider that the more primitive parts of our brains (the parts popularly referred to as the Limbic System) are designed to be on high alert for threats to survival – which, if perceived, would kick the fight or flight, adrenaline pumping, response into action to help save your life…

BUT, what about when you don’t face any threats to survival? Such as when you simply have decided you want to go to the gym to lose a bit of weight,  spend a few more hours on developing your latest business plan, or picking up the phone to make those last few calls of the day to potential clients?

When not under immediate threat of harm, one of the most effective survival response would be the exact opposite of the fight or flight response -> CONSERVE energy, so that you may be rested enough to face the next major threat, with the required vigour and aggression to stay alive!

So… what does this mean for the average human being living in the generally non-threatening Western World (and other places in the world where life is mostly peaceful)?

A lot of the time when you are hoping for a rush of energy to get you out of bed and push you to achieve that big goal that you have set yourself, you may be hoping in vain. Your instincts will be quietly suppressing most forms of motivation, as they tell you that there is no need to move too quickly because currently there is not a lion at the foot of your bed waiting to eat you for breakfast…

The key here is to see that, to your instincts, achievement and the practice of excellence, particularly in pursuits that are not about saving your life, are NOT A NECESSITY… which then firmly places them in the realm of CHOICE!

With many of the professional athletes I work with, we often say, it’s not how you feel, it’s what you do. If you wait all day to feel motivated to do something, you could be waiting a very…. long…. time, particularly on those days when you are feeling pretty flat. Doing something just takes a DECISION to do it.

What can you do about beginning the practice of excellence then?

  1. Set goals that inspire you – if achievement is a choice, then you need something to get you out of bed other than your instincts. Spend some time on your vision board, connecting to the big why – Why do I want to do these things? What will they bring me in all ares of my life? Why are they important to me? (we will talk about an effective goal setting process in a later post)
  2. Acknowledge that it is totally normal to feel lazy and unmotivated at any given point when working to achieve your goals (in fact, it is part of being human) so don’t beat yourself up about it… just accept it
  3. Make a choice and just start taking actions right now, and every day, that move you closer to your goals
  4. Connect to the big picture – make it a ritual to keep reminding yourself of the big why every time you think of getting in action
  5. Use your demotivating feelings as reminders to stay in action, rather than as deterrents or excuses – remember it’s not how you feel, it’s what you do that counts
  6. Put in the time before you expect to see results – the practice of excellence is not a one day, one week or even a one year thing – it is a LIFE-LONG COMMITMENT – short term results are a nice bonus, but don’t get distracted by them

How do the experts get to be so good at what they do? They work their butts off… for a very long time… and probably acknowledge that being human, with all of our supposed shortcomings, is something that they just will have to learn to accept!

Adversity causes some men to break, and others to break records ~ William A. Ward

All the best,
Dr Sean R

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