Excellence is Not Accidental: It’s a Habit!

Steve Jobs once said, “Be a yardstick of quality.  Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected.”   Unfortunately, in today’s society, the attitude and expectation of ‘good enough’ is accepted as a suitable standard in our busy, fast paced world of short-termed products and disposable goods.

I am concerned that excellence in most endeavours is beyond the frame of reference for many people who believe that ‘good enough’ is sufficient.  Some may be fearful to risk-take and push back the boundaries in pursuit of excellence, or they may not want to even try, as the bar will then have to be raised beyond what they are prepared to attempt in the future.

How can parents and educators lead children to understand and aspire to a level of excellence when there are fewer and fewer role models demonstrating this attitude and commitment?

Building a culture of excellence in a child’s environment is really quite easy; however, it does require persistence, consistency, and knowing what the end goal or objective is.  ‘Good enough’ is simply not good enough!

The following are some recommendations to help children develop an awareness and attitude towards excellence:

1)    Language Precedes Action

Choose language carefully, both in the home and in the classroom.  Use words such as: commitment, training, good thinking and work habits, attitude, self-discipline, improvement, success and choices, motivation, ordinary and extraordinary, etc.

Celebrate the achievement when you encounter something created at a level of excellence.   Discuss how a satisfactory result could have been made better, and together, brainstorm ideas that could improve the product, service, or the effort.

2)    Risk-taking and Failure

Both risk-taking and failure are fundamental aspects to the development of one’s success and comfort level in striving for one’s personal best.  Successful risk-taking requires a supportive, nurturing, ‘yes you can’ environment for a child to work in.  Failure needs to be seen as part of the process of excelling.

One’s attitude and the resultant display of emotion towards risk-taking and failure must be positive.   Dealing positively with this in your own life’s challenges is fundamental in order for a child, who looks to you as a role model, to pattern these same positive attitudes.

3)    Initiative and Habit

These two values are a fundamental part of the foundation of excellence. When a child’s initiative is recognized, valued, and encouraged, the child will direct additional effort, not only in order to please, but to accept the challenges to achieve at a higher level.  In time, initiative becomes a habit.  We become what we repeatedly do.

4)    Move from the Ordinary to the Extraordinary

Mediocrity doesn’t teach us anything.  The ordinary is not good enough, can be seen everywhere, and can lead to disappointment.  The truly inspired, creative, and original, needs to be recognized, celebrated, and aspired to.

Visit a local shop and look at the variety found in one kind of merchandise on the shelves.  Have some fun and discover the truly extraordinary.  Discuss how this differs from the copy-cat units in the same category.  The same can be done with TV shows, services, presentations and even with toys.  In this way, children will learn how to spot the extraordinary, become aware of the differences, and be able to strive for this level of uniqueness and excellence in their own endeavours.

“Excellence is to do a common thing in an uncommon way.”

~ Booker T. Washington

We owe it to our children to proactively instill and support the concept of excellence into our daily language, in our attitudes, and in the activities in our homes and classrooms.   Our children are our future, and they need to know how to recognize and experience the determination and commitment in setting their goals.  Aiming for excellence in their own lives, will become a discipline, a habit, and a value to aspire to!

(Published: Oakville Today Feb. 23/2012)

Linda Sweet  M.S. Ed.

Founder and Director, Glenburnie School

Pre-School to Grade 8

Providing a progressive and innovative private school education