This post is Part 1 in a 5-part blog series on developing excellence.
If you are like me, you probably want to become excellent at something. It might be your work. Or it might be a hobby, like chess or basketball. Perhaps you want to develop a relational skill, like being a great parent.
But if you are anything like me, you probably struggle to develop excellence. Maybe you have put in a bunch of time practicing a skill, but don’t see much improvement. This can be discouraging, especially if you are putting in a great deal of time and effort. You might have given up, deciding you don’t have the ‘talent’ for whatever it is you want to do.
In this next series of blog posts, I’m going to talk about what psychology and research have to say about developing excellence. My hope is these posts will be encouraging to you as you try to improve your skills and develop expertise in your particular area.
To begin the discussion, I want to address the question of why we should strive to become excellent at something. What’s the point? Why put in the time and effort?
First, there are rising standards in almost every life domain. Sometimes ‘good enough’ just isn’t good enough. In sports, for example, the Olympic records of 100 years ago are equivalent to average performances by today’s high school athletes. There are also rising standards in intellectual disciplines. For example, Roger Bacon, a 13th century English scholar, said it would take 30-40 years of dedicated work to master mathematics as it was currently understood. This body of knowledge is currently being taught to high school students.
Second, being good at what we do brings us a sense of fulfillment. For example, we get satisfying feelings from knowing something really well. We gain a sense of confidence in our future from knowing how to get good at something. Other areas of our life benefit from developing expertise in a single area. Aiming to be excellent at something teams us up with like-minded folks. Being good at something establishes our individuality in a positive way. Being good at something gives us more freedom in directing our future. We have to do something—we can either get good at something we like to do, or let the working world randomly place us somewhere. Finally, life usually moves in one direction or another. If we don’t get better and better… we generally will get worse and worse.
I think there is good reason for us to try to become excellent at something. In the next few blog posts, we will explore how to do it.
Discussion: What do you think about developing excellence? Is it worth it? What is one area of your life that you would like to develop excellence?