Excellence

“The secret of joy in work is contained in one word–excellence. To know how to do something well is to enjoy it.” ~ Pearl S. Buck, The Joy of Child … 

We have the ability to enjoy nearly everything we do… it is merely a matter of choice. I know individuals who like to complain about their jobs and their professions in life. For some, they do not like the hours or the pay, or they cannot get along with the management or their coworkers. For others the environment or atmosphere is not pleasant enough, or perhaps some other complaint that removes the burden of making work enjoyable from the individual. However, the deeper truth is probably much closer to this: they do not like their jobs because they do not give their all to their job, and for this reason, they never reach the level of excellence that brings about great amounts of satisfaction, fulfillment, and joy. Getting by doing the bare minimum required will never be fulfilling work.

As a boy, each year I would spend a month of my summer detasseling corn. This required me being up at around 5am every morning and working in the dewy, muddy, heat through some of the hottest times of the day. Most would admit they do not enjoy detasseling if asked, yet here they all were, coming back each day along with me to get out in the field again. The trick, I found out, was to not think of it as work–if I am going to be doing it, why not enjoy it a little bit. After all, I found a way to enjoy weightlifting three days a week, and I managed to enjoy football practice in the intense heat for two hours a day. And if I can enjoy that, I can certainly find some enjoyment in being outdoors in the sun, with the gentle breeze blowing upon my face; or in burning calories and keeping healthy and being paid to do so. Or even for the simple fact that I was helping farmers to produce something beneficial for others.

I demand excellence from my children when it comes to their schoolwork. I know that the difference between success and failure is simply the amount of effort put forth. An accomplished Olympics distance-running coach named Jack Tupper Daniels once said that what surprises him most about runners in a race is that when they start to feel tired, almost none of them actually think about speeding up as a way to work their way through the fatigue. He mentioned that in his experience, speeding up offers the legs a new pace and a new stride that can help a runner do their best in a given race. When we get tired of our work in life, rarely do we think of pushing harder in order to make the work more interesting.

We can gain a lot of joy and satisfaction from doing something well–it gives us a feeling of fulfillment and offers us a sense of accomplishment. In this way, we all can enjoy our work in life, for such enjoyment is due not to what the work is, but rather what we give to it. This dynamic can set us apart from those who are unhappy and do not put forth much effort.

Complete a task that you do not enjoy. Do so with purpose and enthusiasm, and then at the end of the day, reflect upon how you feel.

Questions to consider:

How might we start to give all we can to our work, even if we sometimes find it tedious or annoying?

Why is it so easy to start focusing on other things at work if we are somehow bored with the work we are doing, instead of putting ourselves into the work more?

What are some of the benefits of giving our all to our work and starting to enjoy the work and the results?

For further thought:

“There are four stenographers in my office and each of us is assigned to take letters from several men. Once in a while we get jammed up in these assignments. One day, when an assistant department head insisted that I do a long letter over, I started to rebel. I tried to point out to him that the letter could be corrected without being retyped–and he retorted that if I didn’t do it over, he would find someone else who would! I was absolutely fuming! But as I started to retype this letter, it suddenly occurred to me that there were a lot of other people who would jump at the chance to do the work I was doing. Also, that I was being paid a salary to do just that work. I began to feel better. I suddenly made up my mind to do my work as if I actually enjoyed it–even though I despised it. Then I made this important discovery: If I do my work as if I really enjoy it, then I do enjoy it to some extent. I also found I can work faster when I enjoy my work. So there is seldom any need now for me to work overtime. This new attitude of mine gained me the reputation of being a good worker. And when one of the department superintendents needed a private secretary, he asked for me for the job–because, he said, I was willing to do the extra work without being sulky! This matter of the power of a changed mental attitude has been a tremendously important discovery to me. It has worked wonders!” ~ Vallie G. Golden

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