Virtue of the Month – Excellence

St Michaels University School
Virtue of the Month for January – Excellence
Tessa Lloyd, Junior School Counsellor

Excellence. It’s a noble virtue that when practised attentively and diligently, leads to great things. If you believe in excellence, you always give your best. No matter what you are doing, you are consciously using your very best attitude and energy. Whether it is your home life, your school life, or in your relationships with peers, you invest yourself whole-heartedly. You pay close attention, you reflect on what you did and what you could do better. You improve little by little.

The pursuit of excellence can and should encompass all that we are and want to become. It is as much about “being” as “doing”. If we set out to achieve excellence in our lives, we need to ensure that our thoughts are excellent as well! How can we expect excellence if we engage in thinking that is self-defeating? When our thoughts and “self-talk” are encouraging and positive, we are much more likely to achieve excellence in our attitude and in our actions.

When you are practising excellence you are not trying to be better than everyone else, you are trying to be the best that YOU can be. This is such an important distinction. When we set ourselves up against others, we are destined for disappointment, insecurity and maybe even resentment. When we strive to achieve our personal best, we are not in competition but are conscious of our own capabilities and potential. We decide for ourselves how far and how fast to go. We practice excellence by seeking balance and wellness in our lives.

What about the distinction between excellence and perfection? Excellence is more about the journey; perfection is more about the destination. The practice of excellence creates purpose and pride. It leads to feelings of positive self-worth because we have done our best, and because we keep working to do better. Perfection, however, is an arbitrary goal. Even when we do our best, perfection eludes us. Trying to achieve perfection makes us feel that we can never do enough or be good enough, and most often it leaves us feeling anxious, hollow and miserable.

When we think of excellence as a journey, we also recognise that the path it takes is different for each child. They don’t have a map or “how-to manual”, and neither do we! It is important to make provision for and honour the individual path children take, nurture its development, provide astute, timely feedback, and celebrate the process. Speaking of celebration… Happy New Year!

When firming up our attachment to the pursuit of excellence, it’s worthwhile to peel back the layers and examine its roots. What values and beliefs guide our practice? When are we best able to demonstrate excellence, and when and why does it become difficult? What steps might we take to make this practice stronger? Who are our role models? What do we admire about them? In what ways would we like to be similar? What would excellence look like in our practice of reliability, consideration, honesty or patience?

Ask what excellence would look like if…

You are cleaning up your room?

Someone bumps you in the lineup at school?

You have lots of homework and feel overwhelmed?

You have to wait half an hour for an appointment?


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