Is your life too full to take on anything new? Are you too busy to give any attention to a new business idea?
Is it possible you’ve allowed your life to fill up with mediocre pursuits and time-devouring activities?
Mind-numbing busy-work can steal your energy and make you feel too tired to seriously consider other directions and opportunities.
What if you knew that a life of excellence was lurking right around the corner, if you would only prioritize your moments in such a way so that you could recognize it. Take an objective look at the various activities of your life. Get inspired to lose the mediocre to make room for something better.
Most of us are content to remain in our comfortable ruts. The rut is familiar, it feels safe and can be counted on to produce the results we have become accustomed to. But, ruts have nothing to do with adventure, inspiration and excellence. A rut is like a grave with both ends extended. No room for excellence there.
“The quality of a person’s life is in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence, regardless of their chosen field of endeavor.” – Vince Lombardi
“Excellence is the perfect excuse. Do it well, and it matters little what.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)
The 80/20 Principle
How much of what you do every day is responsible for contributing to your life’s dreams? What percentage of all your “doing” translates into your happiness, your joy, your personal satisfaction, your financial independence, and the on-going manifestation of your dreams?
It would be a complicated process to sort it all out, but definitely worth the time to think about. How much of what you do is simply habit and is a result of the rat-race-rut, and how much represents your deliberate choices fueled by the power of your dreams?
You’d likely discover that only about 20% of your effort is producing about 80% of your results. This is known as the Pareto Principle, named after an economist who determined that the average business earns 80% of its profits from only 20% of its customers.
The same principle can be applied to personal development. Typically, one-fifth of your activities are supporting your dreams and the direction you have deliberately chosen. Four-fifths of your activities are getting in the way of that. (If you haven’t yet chosen your life’s direction deliberately, this might be a good time to review a previous article entitled, “10 Steps to Discovering Your Life’s Purpose.”)
“Each honest calling, each walk of life, has its own elite, its own aristocracy based on excellence of performance.” – James B. Conant
Busy is No Excuse
Sure, you are busy. I understand. Everyone is. So what? In this day and age, busy is the default modus operandi. We all start from “busy” — some stay there accidentally, and others reprogram their style of “busy” in order to be busy-on-purpose. An honest look at the details that consume your time will likely reveal areas that can be re-prioritized in order to make more room in your life for excellence. (Here’s a book to help inspire yourself to put this principle to work in your life: “The 80/20 Principle: The Secret to Success by Achieving More with Less” by Richard Koch.)
“Get your priorities straight. No one ever said on his death bed, ‘Gee, if I’d only spent more time at the office.’” – H. Jackson Brown, Jr.
“Doing” is Only Part of the Package
What you do is important, especially if what you see is clear. Your inner vision provides the fuel and the fire for your activity. See your desired future in your mind’s eye first, and then the activities that occur to you will be inspired. You will be performing your actions on purpose, rather than being caught up in a blur of activity – activity for activity’s sake.
It’s too easy to be consumed with the details of doing and lose the big picture. To avoid this pitfall, make visualization a priority in your life. Make an appointment with your imagination every day and be diligent about keeping it. Realize that it’s a critical ingredient in your life and treat it as such.
Everything else in your life springs from the sparks of your imagination, so regular sessions help keep your life on-purpose, which translates to satisfying feelings of gratitude and joy. Without this regular connection to your inner world, your life whizzes by in a dizzying blur of mindless action.
Call it what you will — meditation, contemplation, affirmations, prayer or day-dreaming, but DO IT in order to temper your endless doing with your infinite being.
“Losers visualize the penalties of failure. Winners visualize the rewards of success.” – William S. Gilbert (1836-1911)
“I would visualize things coming to me. It would just make me feel better. Visualization works if you work hard. That’s the thing. You can’t just visualize and go eat a sandwich.” – Jim Carrey on the Oprah Winfrey Show, 1997
Recognize Temporary Activities and Then Move On
Janey and I have been independent and self-employed for virtually our entire lives. One example was a two-and-a-half-year stretch when we worked for a major cruise line. We traveled all over the country doing shows about Alaska. We lived there for fifteen years, so we were hired to be unofficial ambassadors for Alaska, singing songs, telling stories, and answering questions about the desirability of “the last frontier” as a travel destination. As jobs go, it was a good job, but it soon became clear that it was not contributing to our grander picture of our desired future. We kept thinking it would lead to the next step, but it never did — it just lead to more of the same.
Yes, we were traveling and yes, we were playing our original music and making people laugh and feel good, but it wasn’t enough. We were too busy performing a mediocre function for a corporation to allow more excellence into our lives.
“Excellence means when a man or woman asks of himself more than others do.” – Jose Ortega y Gasset (1883-1955)
We had no time for songwriting. No time for recording. No time for Janey to write her novels. No time for me to produce this website. No time for the kind of concerts we are most passionate about performing: (1) community concerts open to kids and seniors and everyone in between . . . and (2) intimate gatherings with other people interested in personal development who “get” the songs I enjoy writing. These are the activities that feel most in alignment with our current picture of “purpose.”
We appreciated the experience with the cruise line and were grateful for the opportunity to pay off our mortgage twelve years early, but we began to feel hungry for more purposeful activities. We realized that 80% of our effort and time was budgeted to contributing to only 20% of our dreams. We had it backwards and knew we had to turn it around. That’s when we recognized our era as Alaskan troubadours as temporary. So, we moved on. Once again, we are totally independent, and love the freedom of deliberately choosing our activities every day in closest alignment with our dreams and deliberately chosen direction.
“Decide what you want, decide what you are willing to exchange for it. Establish your priorities and go to work.” – H. L. Hunt
Since we have “moved on,” we have recorded several new CDs, a two-and-a-half hour DVD, Janey has written another book (a novel), I have written enough articles for this website to fill a book or two, and we have performed hundreds of concerts. All this, and we still have time for our other passions: Janey’s stained-glass artwork, my songwriting and recording, hiking, motorcycling, scuba diving and international traveling.
“Wise are those who learn that the bottom line doesn’t always have to be their top priority.” – William Arthur Ward
Having time for these activities doesn’t come automatically. We can do what we love because we took the time to . . . (1) recognize what that is . . . and (2) prioritize our time to clear out the mediocre to make room for excellence.
First, we checked in with our imaginations to clearly visualize what we wanted to experience and then deliberately pruned the extraneous mediocre activities to make sure we had plenty of room in our lives for the excellence we chose. We looked around and noticed people we admire do not settle for “pretty good” — they consistently choose excellence and adopt a positive, persistent attitude to help make it a reality in their lives. This is the lifestyle commitment we chose to emulate.
It’s a good system. It’s easy to do once you know how. It works and I have no hesitancy in recommending it. Give it a try. What do you have to lose? Mediocrity?
“Excellence is a better teacher than mediocrity. The lessons of the ordinary are everywhere. Truly profound and original insights are to be found only in studying the exemplary.” – Warren G. Bennis (b. 1925)
Before you risk becoming consumed by arbitrary activity, check in with your inner vision about what you truly want. Only then can your action be on-purpose and inspired.
“Unless you know where you’d like to go, how could you possibly get there?
And until you know when it’s time to go, how could you arrive on time?
Cause to get to where you’re goin’, gotta get up and go.
When the time is right, buddy, you’re just gonna know.
Every journey begins with just one step, and it all begins in your mind.”
- from the song, “Just One Step” by Tupelo Kenyon
Make a List, Check it Twice
Once you have a clear picture of where you want to go, write it down at the top of a page. Under it, make two columns. At the top of the left column, write “mediocre.” At the top of the right column, write “excellence.”
Now, think of all the activities you do throughout your day — one by one. Ask yourself if it is an example of excellence that brings you closer to your chosen direction, or a mediocre time-burner that just gets in the way. Is it something you do instead of what you really want to do? If so, you’re looking at something contributing to a life of mediocrity.
“Set priorities for your goals. A major part of successful living lies in the ability to put first things first. Indeed, the reason most major goals are not achieved is that we spend our time doing second things first.” – Robert J. McKain
Continue thinking about each of your activities and writing them in the appropriate column. Don’t be surprised to see the mediocre column fill up first. When you can’t think of any more activities to write down, you will likely have about four times as many listed under the mediocre column as under the excellence column.
This written exercise is a powerful tool to help crystallize your thinking by recognizing which activities can be re-prioritized in order to make room for more excellence in your life. The written list has some staying power — you can refer back to it often and revise it as needed.
Have fun with it and don’t beat yourself up. Cut yourself a little slack. Forget about how bad the past may look and be hopeful, grateful and excited about this present moment and the future as you continue to prioritize your moments in ever-better alignment with your dreams.
“To accomplish great things we must first dream, then visualize, then plan… believe… act!” – Alfred A. Montapert
There are no wrong answers — just the opportunity to recognize where you’ve been working against yourself. This helps make it easier for you to consolidate your energies so your dreams, goals and actions are all pointing in the same direction. Your life’s energy will be invested more efficiently by eliminating any possibility of your dreams pulling in one direction while your actions are pulling in another.
After you are aware of these things, in time, you will notice how your day-to-day choices begin to come into better alignment with what you really want in life — the things that make you feel good about living a life of excellence. Keep at it, be patient and you will see your life transform without strain. Commitment to excellence will become an automatic habit, simply because it’s more fun. You will be living your life from the inside out.
“Persistence is the twin sister of excellence. One is a matter of quality; the other, a matter of time.” – Marabel Morgan
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.” – Aristotle (384-322 BC)
“The secret of joy in work is contained in one word – excellence. To know how to do something well is to enjoy it.” – Pearl S. Buck (1892-1973)
You will be able to recognize which of your activities are temporary and when its time to move on. You will simply feel better physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually when you are not working against yourself.
“May you marinate in gratitude for what has come to be,
While you look to the horizon for your dreams expectantly.
May your body, mind, and spirit be on the same team,
May you think and feel and do and say what you really mean.
May you have joy . . . a peaceful mind . . . and a hopeful heart.”
- from the song, “May You Have Joy” by Tupelo Kenyon
Besides the deep feelings of joy and gratitude in your life, you will enjoy the satisfaction of stepping out of the mediocrity that the masses seem content to settle for, and into the rare arena of excellence. The result is the underlying objective of all human endeavor — simply . . . happiness.
Definition of happiness by John F. Kennedy: “The full use of your powers along lines of excellence.”
This powerful idea of excellence can be applied to whatever nudges and whisperings stir in the depths of your soul. We are all so different, so it is only natural that our dreams are equally diverse. It’s a huge universe with plenty of room for billions of different demonstrations of excellence in all areas of life. With a commitment to excellence, happiness and satisfaction are a natural by-product, regardless of the details of the endeavor itself.
“An excellent plumber is infinitely more admirable than an incompetent philosopher. The society which scorns excellence in plumbing because plumbing is a humble activity and tolerates shoddiness in philosophy because it is an exalted activity, will have neither good plumbing nor good philosophy. Neither its pipes nor its theories will hold water.” – John W. Gardner
This article is not about someone else’s idea of excellence but the deliberately chosen direction of your life. It’s about your ideas of excellence as applied to the quality of your life. It is your best possible life. Sure, it’s a moving target, continually refined on a year-to-year, day-to-day, and moment-to-moment basis. It’s free choice at its finest, chosen by you, on-purpose — your life of excellence.
While reading, did you choose to hear the relaxing instrumental music linked at the beginning of this article? To learn more about it, click here.
Listen FREE to the songs below . . . chosen to enhance the ideas in this article.
Just One Step
Just begin. If you will just get underway, the project itself gains momentum and carries you along to its completion.
May You Have Joy
Miracle in Disguise
Take the Plunge
Do What You Love
Songs by Tupelo
10 Steps to Discovering Your Life’s Purpose
Quarter Million Dollar Idea for Productivity
Take Time for You
Integrity Through Self-Reliance
Action and Satisfaction
Work – Just a Job or Visible Love
Articles by Tupelo
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