It is not enough to simply do your best.
June 8, 2014
WHEN WE’VE PUT IN THE TIME or garnered the courage to look at something we want to change in our lives, the next thing we crave is a quick fix. It’s not an unreasonable desire considering we avoided looking in the first place due to what we feared we’d see. Who wants to hear themselves say:
“Lordy, my writing is more amateurish than I thought.”
“Man, I didn’t know I’d gained that much.”
“Shoot, I thought I was managing better than that.”
No one enjoys these moments of self-revelation. We want out as fast as possible. But here’s the bind. If we just go back to the old saws that dictate how to improve, nothing truly changes. You’ve heard them all, ones like:
- Work harder. So we do, producing more words but still as lifeless as ever.
- Gut it up.So we do, forcing ourselves to eat less, exercise more and leave the table earlier. We lose the weight, but we don’t keep it off.
- Get some will power. So we find some, live like a nun for a month or two, get some money in the old savings account and then see ourselves rebel in hedonism.
Obviously, improvement as we’ve been conditioned to understand it is far from being the whole picture. And to default to good enough, invites an on-going decrease in standards.
But excellence, that’s a different notion. It is born out of a desire to be the best we can be. When we cross paths with excellence, it literally thrills us, and when we experience it personally, we are engulfed with a deep sense of satisfaction. So why don’t we use this path to improve our lives?
W. Edwards Deming, whose brilliant understanding of excellence as it functions in the world of business, gave us the key as to how to make excellence operate in our lives. He said: It is not enough to do your best; you must know what to do, and then do your best.
So what does he mean by that? True change, meaning one with lasting consequences, requires us to pinpoint the actual source of our problem, otherwise change is akin merely to rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. We must answer the question: “What is it about me that has me find myself in this predicament?” When we answer that question, it will naturally point us toward “what to do.”
Quite frankly, almost none of us realize how powerful one right act can be in creating true change, but Deming understood it. He grasped the bigger picture and explained it this way: “We’re here to make another world.”
He didn’t say we were here to write a little better, get a little thinner or become a little richer. He meant we’re here to know what life is like when excellence is the only path we’ll consider.
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