“The will to win, the desire to succeed, the urge to reach your full potential, these are the keys that will unlock the door to personal excellence.” Confucius
Standards are a part of life. Sometimes they’re well-established standards that have existed for years, and other times they’re standards that were haphazardly decided upon and implemented the same day. Some standards are created by us, and others are prescribed by other people or groups. However, regardless of what standards we’re talking about or how they came into existence, when it comes to excellence…standards are irrelevant.
A standard is defined in the Oxford Learner’s Dictionary as “a level of quality that is normal or acceptable for a particular person or in a particular situation.” In contrast, the Oxford Learner’s Dictionary defines excellence as “the quality of being extremely good.” Being extremely good and achieving a normal, acceptable quality level are not at all the same things and exist completely independently of one another.
Too often, we define excellence in terms of the extent to which set standards are surpassed. That is, if we achieve far enough over and above the standard, then our achievements can be described as excellence. However, this conceptualization of excellence is flawed, because it defines excellence in terms of standards when the truth is that there is no relationship whatsoever between standards and excellence.
Achieving standards involves us meeting some predefined conditions, whereas achieving excellence requires us to perform to our potential. This means we could fail to meet standards while still demonstrating excellence or far exceed standards while failing to achieve excellence. Remember, excellence is “the quality of being extremely good”, but how do we define “extremely good”? Since we can’t do better than our best, we must define “extremely good” in terms of our potential, what we’re realistically capable of achieving in any given moment. So, excellence is achieved when we perform as close to our best as humanly possible.
Today, focus less on standards and more on your potential. Judge yourself by your effort, attitude, and improvement rather than by the objective outcome. Pay less attention to meeting arbitrary milestones set by yourself or others and, instead, concentrate on bringing the best of yourself and your abilities to every situation. Ignore standards and achieve excellence.