Unlike the pursuit of happiness, which is always the end goal of any human being and never the right one, the pursuit of Excellence is one that must be embarked upon to elevate our own sense of self. Happiness is a secondary part of this pursuit, for, in each success, therein happiness lies.
The old-fashioned encouragement of our elders and leaders, in the form of teachers, parents, guides, will tell us to strive on, to do better, to make something ordinary into something extraordinary, In order to be the best, but this teaching needs further explanation. We do not pursue excellence in order to beat someone else. We pursue excellence in order to beat ourselves, that negative monkey-mind that keeps us always just below our own par. In truth, it is ourself we make extraordinary and not the thing we do. Although each success results inevitably in a ‘thing’ such as a published book on a shelf, a painting sold, a medal awarded, our name on walls in hallowed halls, the real happiness lies in the knowledge that we worked on, through difficult times, through darkness and doubt, cold comments and hot criticism, to achieve what now glows with light in the eyes of the world. Despite all the difficulties we may have encountered, we continued with our work, perhaps in a lonely silence, until suddenly everyone wants to shake our hand, or bake us a cake, even those who disbelieved and doubted as we faithfully marched on down our chosen path.
It doesn’t matter to me if this work is in the public eye or not. Most good work is done alone. It is easy, so easy, to be seduced into thinking that successes come with the genes, but we can be astonishingly good at many things, do little to develop them, giving up, saying ‘It’s not working for me’ and ultimately waste a gift, flush it down the loo, walk away from it. Each one of us is placed just where we should be, and it is our job in this one life to locate it and build. Not one single soul is without a gift. Perhaps it is for caring, perhaps handywork or bending metal into shapes. It might be to uplift others, to paint, write or make music. It could be staying calm and strong at times when others panic. It might be with animals, with parenthood, with teaching or entertaining, cooking, translating, sports or marketing. The list is endless.
The problem is nowadays that everyone seeks glamour and judges themselves on that basis, especially the young, although it doesn’t stop in youth. People consider their lives ruined when life drops a boulder into it, but this is not the truth, for just like that any one of us can lose a job, our looks, a lifestyle, a loved one and yet life is not done with us yet, for somewhere in there, after the grief and the mourning is past, there is something still at which we can excel. We may not feel like it, but who does want to start again? And yet, I have seen it too many times, the indomitable human spirit doing just that.
Pursuing Excellence is a way of being, not something for those born with a silver spoon. Someone washing dishes can wash them consistently with excellence, if they have that burn inside them, that need to do everything to its highest level. I meet so many people who seem to be waiting for something to happen. I want to tell them it already is.
Consider this…… it isn’t the great thinkers and do-ers of the past who will make history now, but each one of us. I don’t mean ‘out there’ in the world, I don’t mean an OBE or a spot on Britain’s Got Talent, but inside our own families and friends, and, more importantly inside our own hearts. No recognition is worth a fig once the hype has died away. What lasts for ever is the knowledge that we worked and studied and focussed and never never never gave up. We alone made this happen. This is what will carry on, will carry us on, will be told down through the generations, will make others think, consider, re-evaluate their own priorities and make a change. This is what really tells us we can do it, wherever we are placed, despite our limitations, our commitments, our troubles and strife. One person, one gift, one chance to excel.
As one door closes, another opens. You’ve all heard that one. At times I scoffed at it, seeing nothing but closed doors, and considering that open door to exist only in the Secret Garden and other winsome tales, but that was simply because I had my blinkers on. Thinking we are too old, too tired, too sick is to die whilst still alive. Someone said to me, at that difficult time, ‘It is my opinion that the only way out of any gloom is to turn the light on someone else.’ I thought, Cheeky So-and-So, but it did think me over the next while. And, he was right. Initially, when gloomed-up, we need to begin to forget ourselves, because the habitual thinking is poisonous to our minds. Once we have shone the light on loads of others, seen their lives, heard of their troubles, we gradually realise how much we have at home. Much that seemed so little not days ago. Then, once restored, once our mouths are full again of laughter (most of it at our own self) we can ferret about inside our own life with fresh eyes for that ‘something we can do.’ Then, we baby step it out of the attic, dust it off and, without anyone else having a scooby about it, we begin to fashion a new thing, a thing that will challenge us, for we have never done this before, upset and confound us, meet with difficulties and comments, doubts and fears that we are being complete charlies, until one day we discover that we believe in it; we believe in us believing in it.
And then, my friends, we are off, because we are now in Pursuit of Excellence.