All of us are bombarded by a wave of expectations on a daily basis. Ranging from friends who want to hang out more often, to parents who threaten to disown you if you don’t manage to get at least a 3.9 GPA, the weight of expectations takes its place on the shoulders of many. Thus, the reach for excellence is a journey shared by many.
Remember running races in elementary school? Remember how, just before the race, a freakishly optimistic teacher would gather up the whole class and say, “Kids, I want you all to know that the most important thing is- say it with me- having a good time, not winning. Get out there and enjoy yourselves!” (or some other variation like- “It’s not whether you win that matters, it’s whether you tried your best”)? I remember how, at the end of a race, I was completely distraught because even though I tried my best, I didn’t win. I remember wanting to hate Miss Ella (bless her heart) because of her useless advice.
I find that the pursuit of excellence is almost exactly like elementary races: regardless of how many times we’re told that giving our all is what matters most, putting in effort isn’t enough for us. We aren’t content with putting in tremendous effort and getting something other than a win from it. The value of winning has been ingrained in our heads for the longest time, but perhaps we need to re-define what winning is or shift the value that we place in winning into the extent of our effort.
We are often told to “reach for the stars”. But what if the stars are guarded by undefeatable demonic, steak-eating moons? It’s all good and well to have a positive attitude, but there comes a time when we must realize that we can’t conquer everything. Not even the demonic moons. Excellence has a limit. There is a point at which the line between pursuing excellence and pursuing perfection blurs. I think that the world has wrongfully lumped excellence into a category similar to perfection. There is definitely a difference between the quest for excellence and that of perfection, and that is that excellence is actually attainable. We should be careful not to end up chasing perfection because it never satisfies.
Excellence is commonly defined as the state or quality of being exceptionally good or skilled in an area, however, I believe that we should define the pursuit of excellence as simply doing one’s best in whatever they’re doing. We regularly underestimate the significance of our effort and fail to see that it may signify an even greater sense of excellence than what society has deemed as “winning”. People may say that they know that trying their best does matter, but do they truly believe that? Do you?