The Pursuit of Excellence – acknowledging the source of adversity

The Pursuit of Excellence – acknowledging the source of adversity

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Shooting for excellence is a tough gig.


I know I’ve been a bit off my game the last few weeks. I’m stuck in a bit of an in-between. I recently finished up a summer job and am now working towards applying for my PhD.


I’m also going on a road trip for the next week with my wife and son. All this and more means my schedule has gone a bit out the window. As a result some of my regular habits and routines have gone the wayside a bit too.


I haven’t been flossing every day. I only just got a good head start on the next Crusades post a couple days ago (over a month since I published the last one). I have been sleeping in a lot, which of course means I haven’t been getting as much work done as I would like. I haven’t done a legit workout in over a month; the list goes on.


Throw a gastro bug in the mix somewhere and it’s easy to feel like this little guy:


Poor little fella

This is usually a good opportunity to let the excuses roll in.


‘Oh I’m just being too hard on myself’


‘my expectations are too high’


‘I’ve been riding a push bike to work’


This all might all be true. I do set very high expectations for myself. At least for the foreseeable future I have specific goals on mind and I plan on seeing them through. I’m also not randomly throwing myself at things. My goals generally all converge on a big picture.


However none of these excuses are going to help me regain control of my time and my discipline.


More importantly, these are not the real reasons I have been coming up short.


One of the main reasons we fall short of our expectations, is that we’re simply avoiding the hard things. Usually hard things are easy to identify because they are exactly what we know we should be doing, but we are avoiding. Whether it’s because the objective isn’t clearly defined enough, or it involves some degree of grit or courage on our part.


But it can also be other things too. For example, I made it a goal this year to start drinking black coffee. Which has been going well, I bought a plunger and started buying beans from one of the best roasters in the country. I was surprised to discover that I really didn’t mind black coffee all that much, as long it’s top quality, and I brew it just right. But at this point I can’t say that I love it. I do still miss my milk (and sometimes my sugar).


The problem is, when I set myself the goal to start getting up early (5am) so that I could get things done in the morning, my main incentive was making myself a nice hot delicious cup of coffee first thing. Now I’m waking up to a nice, but ultimately not I’m-super-in-love-with-this cup of black coffee. As a result, it’s become increasingly difficult to jump myself out of bed in the morning and get started with my day. 5 became 5:30, became 6am.


Another issue is probably that I have a son now who occasionally unsettles our (my wife and I) sleep pattern to some extent.


Other potential reasons include staying up a little later than usual and not having a clear objective in mind when I wake up.


The point is many of these setbacks are very much within my power to change.


This is the case for the vast majority of setbacks that we experience. It’s also true that even when we find an obstacle that we have no power over, there are often alternate ways to get around it.


I can’t do much about my son waking in the night (or can I?), but I can be more disciplined with getting to bed on time and going to sleep. A more unorthodox solution might be to schedule a nap into middle of my day.


The other most likely solutions are finding some other incentive to get my head off the pillow in the morning instead of my coffee. I can also be more disciplined about when I get to bed and get to sleep, instead of letting my reading time (or my blog writing time) trickle into my sleeping time.


What you will also find is that once you start identifying the reasons explaining your setbacks, you will be able to see how they are affecting other problems you have. My lack of discipline around my morning and night routines could be affecting my ability to be productive during the day, leading me to stay up late working, instead of getting more done during the day. So rather than feeling like your falling apart in all areas of your life, it may only be one or two key weaknesses that are affecting the whole system.


The main point that I want to emphasise though, is that if I don’t first acknowledge the source of my adversity, and honestly assess the reasons for it, then it is destined to become my failure.


Encountering setbacks in the face of adversity is not tantamount to failure, but if you don’t objectively analyse the problem and seek a solution, then failure is what it will become.


In the pursuit of excellence, you cannot learn from your failures if you do not first acknowledge them.


Thanks for reading

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