Have you heard of the spirit of excellence? If you were raised in a Christian household or were frequently at church, you may have heard of the story of Daniel. Daniel was said to have a “spirit of excellence.” And he was recognized by God for it resulting in a successful career serving the royalty of the era.
I didn’t know the story of Daniel, but a Spirit of Excellence was required in my home
I wasn’t preached at as a kid, so I didn’t know much about Daniel. But throughout my childhood, I was encouraged to embody an excellent spirit. In fact, I was instructed not to do anything if I did not plan to do it with excellence.
Excellence was the standard.
This meant that every bed needed to be made every morning; it meant that if I were to empty the garbage cans I could not accidentally miss one; it meant that taking it easy and not studying for a test was not an option. If it sounds tough… it was (but in the best possible way). The discipline created in our home resulted in my high achiever mentality.
It is also where I started to develop some unrealistic perfectionism…
The spirit of excellence has carried with me throughout my adulthood and has resulted in a lot of “success” at a young age. But I’ve also had to learn how to balance the spirit of excellence with an overburden of perfectionism.
My spirit of excellence has set me apart at work. It is easy to tell in your peer interactions, which team members embody a spirit of excellence and which ones don’t. Just like God recognizing Daniel, your leaders start to recognize you from everyone else.
So what is an excellent spirit?
The best way to categorize the excellence of spirit is with the following traits (all definitions are from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary):
- Diligence — steady, earnest, and energetic effort: devoted and painstaking work and application to accomplish an undertaking
- Belief — a state or habit of mind in which trust or confidence is placed in some person or thing
- Honesty — fairness and straightforwardness of conduct
- Integrity — firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values
- Wisdom — ability to discern inner qualities and relationships
- Teachability — ability to learn by instruction
None are difficult traits, but they each require stretching, learning, paying attention and being intentional about the tasks that you complete. You cannot be diligent if you are lazy. You cannot be honest if you don’t value your integrity.
When taken together these traits help to filter out choices that are the “easy way out.
The opposite of excellence isn’t “badness.” The opposite of excellence is laziness.
To pursue excellence, you have to put aside the things that are easy, simple, or comfortable. And you have to work towards the things that will stretch you and help you grow. In Daniel’s case, moving towards God, and in our case help us move towards the highest level of achievement that we can reach. Every time you take a step towards excellence you help to define yourself and to grow yourself.
Every time you choose to not take that step you’re limiting your potential.
An excellent spirit is not the same as perfection
Excellence of spirit is when you are someone who will give your very very best to everything that you work on.
Aristotle said, “we are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act but a habit.”
And I would extend that to say that excellence is an attitude just as much as it is a habit. Attitudes and habits are built on the choices that we make every single day. You choose to make great choices consistently and to develop a spirit of excellence. It requires that you do not settle for average or mediocre, but stretch one step further towards excellence every single day.
Excellence is not a one-time occurrence.
Excellence is a repeated choice to step above and beyond, and to bring an attitude of high standards with positivity and grace. A standard of excellence is tough to maintain but is important as you work towards a successful career. Having a spirit of excellence will help to set you apart from the pack.
My excellence is different from your excellence
Long-term, excellence looks different for every single person. My excellence is not the same as yours and it should never be compared.
Daniel had to define excellence for himself and make the choices that were relevant to the context of his life. And that’s the same for you and me.
My current expression of excellence includes:
- writing one new article a week of new content
- speaking to University students and new job seekers in webinars
- serve my husband by prioritizing our marriage
- giving my puppy lots of attention
- staying calm while packing and moving cities
But that might not be your definition of excellence. Chances are that you have your own standards of excellence that you work towards on a daily or weekly basis. And you should not compare it to anyone else’s standards. But remember that excellence requires a stretch. You are likely not achieving a personal standard of excellence if you are comfortable or coasting.
Excellence looks different for every single person and we need to be comfortable defining and working towards our own excellence so that we can become the best versions of ourselves both at work and home.