The Demand for Excellence


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I’ve been thinking a bit about the demand for excellence and the amount of demand others place on us and the amount we place on ourselves.

Many of us grew up where grades were the most important part of life. What mark you received on your English exam was far more important than anything else on the planet at that moment. Everything was riding on that single letter, marked in red at the top of a page. Not everyone put as much effort into grades and failed or did well regardless – but still, that letter carried tons of meaning. It determined your worth when you came home to show your parents. If you got an “A” or a “B”, it hung on the fridge. If you got a “C” well do better next time. Anything past a “D” and the dreaded “PARENT SIGNATURE” left you walking home from school in shame. (I had a few of those, but math stinks, right!?)

As adults, we do not get grades but we are graded on every single thing we do from what we do in the office to what we do at home. Then there is everything in between…

The demand for excellence is no longer limited to tests or homework. As adults to be excellent is placed upon us by our bosses, our companies, our customers, our children, our spouses, our parents, strangers in the cars around us, cashiers, doctors, and the list goes on and on. On some level every single one of us has an expected level of excellence placed upon us and it is compounded by the expected level we place upon ourselves!

How often do we get a critique then beat ourselves up in our minds and demand to do better next time? Not just better, though… perfectly, perhaps? The “even better” standard can be anything from eating a better meal at lunch to shining the kitchen sink and the gradation of that “better” depends upon the person. Some may think better is not important. Maybe you’ll do better next time, if you feel like it… Then there are others whose “better” is nothing but pure perfection. Thus, the demand for excellence compounds from the outside world and the internal world.

I have not figured out a way to combat this conundrum, so if you thought this post would have steps to releasing the demand, well, I’m afraid I have no answers. The only suggestion I can make is to witness when others demand excellence from you, then see how much you’ve placed upon yourself. More likely than not the inner critic is way harder on you than any boss… and I’ve dealt with some intense bosses…


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