Steve Jobs once said, “Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected.” Unfortunately in today’s society, the attitude and standard ‘good enough’ is accepted as an acceptable standard in our busy, fast paced world of short-termed product and disposable goods.
I am concerned that ‘excellence’ in most endeavours is likely beyond the frame of reference for many people and their expectations, believing that ‘good enough’ is sufficient! Some may be fearful to risk-take in trying to push back the boundaries in the pursuit of excellence, or don’t want to even try, as then the bar will have been raised beyond what they are prepared to do in future.
How can parents and educators lead children to understanding and aspiring to a level of excellence when there are so few role models demonstrating this attitude and commitment?
Building a culture of excellence in a child’s environment is really quite easy; however, it does require persistence, consistency and knowing what the end goal or objective is. ‘Good enough’ is simply not good enough!
The following are some recommendations for helping instill in a child the attitude towards excellence:
1) Language Preceeds Action.
- Whether in the home or the classroom, choose your language carefully. Use words like commitment, training, good thinking/work habits, attitude, self-discipline, improvement, success and choices, motivation, the ordinary and the extraordinary.
- Celebrate the achievement when you encounter something created at a level of excellence. Discuss also how a satisfactory result could have been made better, and together brainstorm ideas that could improve the product, service or the effort.
2) Risk-taking and Failure
Both of these are fundamental aspects to the development of one’s success and comfort levels in striving for one’s personal best. Successful risk-taking requires a supportive, nurturing, “yes you can’ environment for a child to work in. Failure needs to be seen as part of the process of excelling, containing hidden insights and opportunities for advancement.
One’s attitudes, and the resultant display of emotions towards risk-taking and failure, have to be positive. Role modeling how you yourself deal positively with this in your own life’s challenges is fundamental in order for a child to pattern these same positive attitudes themselves.
3) Initiative and Habit
These two values are a fundamental part of the foundation of excellence in endeavour. When a child’s initiative is recognized, valued, and encouraged, the child will direct additional effort, not only in order to please, but to accept the challenges to achieve at a higher level. In time, initiative becomes a habit. We become what we repeatedly do.
4) Move from the Ordinary to the Extraordinary
Mediocrity doesn’t teach us anything. The ordinary is not good enough, can be seen everywhere, and can lead to disappointment. The truly inspired, creative and original needs to be recognized, celebrated and aspired to.
Visit a local shop and look at the variety found in one kind of merchandise on the shelves. Have some fun to discover the truly extraordinary. Discuss how this differs from the copy-cat units in the same category. The same can be done with TV shows, services, presentations and even with toys. In this way children will learn how to spot the extraordinary, become aware of the differences, and be able to strive for this level of uniqueness and excellence in their own endeavours.
“Excellence is to do a common thing in an uncommon way.” Booker T. Washington
We owe it to our children to proactively instill and support the concept of excellence into our daily language, in our attitudes, and in the outcomes of activity in our homes and classrooms. Our children, our future, need to know how to recognize and experience the determination and commitment in setting their goals. Aiming for excellence in their own lives, becomes a discipline, a habit and a value to aspire to!