Some time ago we used to be friends. Or, to be completely correct, you used to be once of my guiding lights. Something to aspire to, something to admire and venerate in others. But then came children and some of those grand aspirations slipped a little, and excellence morphed into trying to do my best at tasks I would previously have thought less than interesting (dishes, scheduling, stain removal? You know who you are). It took about eight months of being a parent for my excellence standard to transfer from work-focused achievements to other activities. And along the way, for some of my own thinking to change as well.
Happily, I learned some lessons along the way.
1. It’s hard to be excellent at being a parent, all the time. Moments of excellence certainly do shine through, but striving to be excellent at parenting when random chaotic activities happen daily can set you up for a disappointing ride. Being great, is great.
2. Excellence pops up in the strangest places. Even the most mundane activity can offer up a sense of purpose and worthy satisfaction simply by paying attention. Staying in the moment, being meditative and generally being mindful is the key.
3. Children show their own bright lights of excellence each and every day. Learning to climb a ladder, copying a new word, bravely taking first steps–these are all excellent, amazing achievements. It’s easy to see, enjoy and celebrate these moments with little people. Sometimes, though, the achievements in our own days–finding patience over and over, finding the right words to explain, finding the way through to the end of the day without a rest–are also excellent achievements, and ones that should be celebrated just as well. Even if it is a simple, self-provided pat on the back.
Excellence, you hold a new place in my life. And, for the moment, it’s a place of peace.