When I ask students and athletes what committing to excellence means I often get a blank stare in return, but I see brains starting to work. So, what does it mean to commit to excellence? I’m sure there are plenty of different meanings, but to me, committing to excellence means having a relentless desire and pursuit to improve on a daily basis.
Before I go into more detail about how you can commit to excellence and what it means, I first want to make it clear that excellence is an endless pursuit that may never be reached, as there is always something to improve upon, and you will always stumble on this pursuit.
In order to commit to excellence, you’re going to have to do three things; change the way you think; step out of your comfort zone; and embrace failure. Each one of these leads to the next and will always start and end with the way you think. As I expand on these three topics — open your mind and start to think about how you can apply them to your daily life.
The first step toward committing to excellence is changing the way you think. The way you think determines the actions, or lack thereof, you take. The way you think directly correlates to what you think about yourself and your ability to succeed, especially in adverse situations. Many people suffer from the Law of Limiting Beliefs, which are innate or outside voices which create negative attitudes and thoughts that make you believe you cannot succeed.
For instance, when asked to do something you are unfamiliar with a typical thought is “I can’t do that, I’ve never don’t it before”. Or, when you tell someone a goal you have they respond with “good luck with that I don’t think you going to be able to do it”. Continually thinking negatively about yourself and listening to what others say about you can gradually make you believe you cannot succeed.
In order to commit to excellence and start to see success you first must change the way you think about yourself, believing in your abilities, and not listening to the negativity that others speak. You must always think positive and paint pictures in your head of what it will look like when you succeed.
Now that you believe you can succeed and your head is full of positive thoughts you will start to relentlessly act on what it is you want to pursue, leading you out of your comfort zone. Once you are out of your comfort zone you are free to relentlessly act on new thoughts, ideas, opportunities and challenges with a positive outlook and an internal belief that you can succeed.
Staying within the parameters of your comfort zone will only paralyze your thoughts and actions, leaving you stuck where you are, with limited chance of growth. Stepping out of your comfort zone will allow you to develop new skills, attitudes and beliefs about yourself that will enable growth. Most importantly you will learn to be uncomfortable.
Let’s face it, in order to grow you have to learn to be uncomfortable because it’s in those situations where you’re forced to action, where action creates results, where the result is growth through a new learned behavior. Stepping out of your comfort zone pushes you to unfamiliar places where growth is awaiting and where failure is lurking. Understand that stepping out of your comfort zone means that you’re not just going to have to learn to fail but embrace failure.
Embracing failure is not for the timid, but is a must in your pursuit of excellence. Being in uncomfortable situations is going to cause some failures, plain and simple. Because when you are new to things you are going to fail. But failure cannot be looked at as a negative but instead as a positive in the sense that every time we do not succeed there is an opportunity to learn.
As a former professional pitcher failure was something that I quickly learn to accept. Quite frankly quicker than I wanted and expected. My first professional outing included giving up a game tying homerun in the 7th inning. After getting two quick outs I quickly learned that you can’t hang a curveball to the number 3 hitter. The following outing’s success, or what I thought success was, was limited and it lead me to thinking if I made the right decision by skipping college.
Two years later in 2006 I had the best year of my short career where failure never crossed my mind. I was so confident in myself I didn’t believe I could fail. Failure in my eyes was defined differently to me at that time. But 2007 was a different story. Failure started to creep in my mind on a weekly basis due to some adversity and bad outings. Due to my thought process changing in a negative way I allowed failure to affect my performance leading to a terrible year. My inability to change my thinking led to me worrying about failure and trying too hard not to fail that it led to poor performance. Not embracing failure during this season lead to emotional ups and downs and a distorted view of myself.
In a game where failure is imminent you can never believe that it will happen. Pitching, and baseball in general, is the toughest game in the world because you have to embrace and accept failure every single day.
From those two seasons here is what I learned – Embracing failure gives you the courage and confidence you need to continue pushing forward in adverse situations knowing that no matter what the end result is you’re going to grow from it. Your inability to push the threshold and try new things because of your fear of failure will leave you intimidated to act on new thoughts, ideas or opportunities and hinder your pursuit of excellence. Looking at failure in a positive light, which requires changing the way you think, will give you freedom to “pitch freely” and pursue your goals and dreams without limitations caused by fear.
I challenge you to take a moment to have a deep reflection on your current situation and ask yourself “Is the way I am thinking leading me to success?” Let today be the day that you start to change the way you think, step out of your comfort zone and embrace failure.