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30-Day excellence series: Five keys for attaining excellence

The word Excellence is tossed around casually and is often used in many contexts to describe a performance or conduct that is deemed to be well executed, or flawlessly delivered. We refer to the student that performs extremely well in tests as being excellent; as we do the athlete that blows out the competition in a race, or the worker that consistently delivers over and above the call of duty.

Our use of the term excellence and our association of the concept with discrete, singular acts of spectacular performance can create a narrow view of what excellence truly means. We have come to view excellence as a concept whose presence is associated with performances that elicit bright lights and accolades or as something that can only be measured externally.

Whilst these external manifestations do speak volumes, there is a dimension of excellence that is internally driven. True excellence is a way of being. It is not just an outcome from a singular, discrete activity. It is a way of living that embraces a constant drive to be the best versions of ourselves, being willing to go out of our comfort zone, embracing vulnerability and uncertainty, and being ever willing to learn and do better. Excellence is the zone where growth and success overlap.

Taken as a whole, excellence is a lofty ambition and can seem daunting, but it can be achievable with a solid plan, a determination to work through fear, and a commitment to activities that lead to success.

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Over years of coaching individuals and organisations through to excellence, I have created a five-pillar framework that breaks excellence down into manageable parts, and it follows the easy-to-remember acronym: EXCEL.

E – Energise your path

X – X out limiting beliefs

C – Create winning outcomes

E – Execute diligently and with courage

L – Leverage learning for growth

The actions captured in the EXCEL framework, if diligently followed, will enable you to live a life of excellence.

1. Energise your path: Every goal starts with a desire – to actualise a specific purpose, to improve on existing skills, or to learn something new. The first step towards excellence, therefore, is to energise your path with a clear vision and purpose. You must be able to articulate clearly to yourself what you aim to achieve, and why this particular goal is so important to you. This journey requires a great deal of self-awareness as you set on the task of discovering your true values beneath societal expectations and external pressures. Your true vision and purpose should inflame you with an eagerness to get started as you move towards the next step of eliminating those beliefs that might stop you before you get started.

2. Cross out limiting beliefs: Progress demands that you nurture your beliefs and master your mindset. It is easy to give in to negative beliefs as you try to compare your present circumstances to your aspirations, but in order to thrive, you must be your own champion, halting limiting beliefs when they appear and transforming them into positive, empowering thoughts. Taking control of your thoughts and attitude is not necessarily about lying to yourself about your reality; it is about reminding yourself of the skills and resources you have now, and devising a plan for changing your circumstances. It means taking note of the things you do well, leveraging your network, and re-committing yourself daily to a decision to succeed.

3. Create winning outcomes: The next step is to create winning outcomes with a well thought-out and robust plan. This involves breaking large goals into smaller projects, outlining the resources and people you will need to partner with for success, creating a realistic timeline for achieving your tasks, taking the first step, and staying committed to it. Planning is a valuable and inevitable exercise. The same rigour applied to business plans for example, should be applied to personal development and project plans; including clearly defined metrics for success and a mechanism for tracking progress.

4. Execute diligently and with courage: Executing the plan for excellence will require discipline; the daily commitment to choosing between what you want now and what you want most. This phase demands discipline and managing your time and other resources in a way that gets you closer to your goals. Effective time management is one of the more important indicators of success, as time spent wisely can lead to great inroads into one’s goals. Managing time is about managing priorities. The first line of action is to be selective about how you choose to spend your time, and which projects you take on. We all have finite bandwidths and cannot involve ourselves in every project. It is essential that you filter through invitations and distractions to focus on activities that drive your vision.

5. Leverage learning for growth: The final pillar for the drive towards excellence is to leverage learning for growth. Enhancing your skills by leveraging technology. The internet offers an invaluable tool for growth, providing access to instructional and educational content for virtually every field of endeavour. You can improve your skills by learning through online videos, track and measure your progress through specific apps or platforms, or even discover online communities of like-minded people and engage in peer-to-peer learning. Virtual learning has given rise to value-driven online courses, making learning more affordable and flexible.

As you work your way from vision to actualisation, you start to realise that excellence comes from self-leadership and self-discipline, taking responsibility for mobilising yourself from where you are now to where you desire to be. A decision and determined effort in mobilising required resources, course-correcting when necessary, and continuously steering towards the end goal.

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