Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Importance of Striving for Excellence: Four Lessons I've Learned

Drive. Motivation. Passion. These are some of the terms we think of to describe the necessary qualities of a successful person. Many people assume  these qualities are gifted to someone--like he was just born to do this certain thing. This can be true, but I think for most of us, it goes even deeper.
This post serves as a reflection to myself, and anyone else reading who might gain strength from my experiences, and has a desire for personal excellence. 

Lesson #1:  Life is Fragile:  Home from college, I sat watching a Friends episode eating cinnamon toast and drinking a cup of hot Earl Grey tea, when I heard my mother scream. After a call to 911, I handed the phone off to my sister, and turned to the front stairway. As I bounded up the stairs, with every step, I knew my life would never be the same again. Looking at my brother in a state of peaceful rest, I began CPR. My mother, father, and sister swirled around me, but I stayed calm, kept going--trying desperately to breathe life into my beloved brother. Minutes seemed like hours until the ambulance came--but, I never wavered--I kept trying. I never gave up on my brother. 
Through his death, my brother taught me to always stay the course, to fight to protect my family and loved ones, my dreams, and my life. To never give up, not waste a day, an hour, or a minute of God's most precious gift of life. And more importantly, through it all, remembering to stay calm knowing God's peace surrounds us all if we are willing to openly receive it. 

Lesson #2: We're Not That Special: In 2008, my husband and I were on top of the world! We'd been married for seven years at the time, had two beautiful girls with a son on the way. We purchased a nice family home to settle in, and my husband had a great career, having worked up the ranks to a director position maintaining a high figure salary. Life was easy. Then, boom. After twelve years with the company, new ownership caused massive layoffs. For the next five years, our family struggled to gain a foothold. I learned deep lessons from that experience. First, I learned that education will only get you so far--there are so many talented, educated people out there today. Secondly, no one is irreplaceable. Pride is a dangerous thing, and I learned to always be humble and know--I'm really not that special. It's important in today's market to keep an attitude of growth. I'm always asking myself, "How can I stand out? What can I do differently? What can I bring to the table?" I never let myself think of ways in which I should be served, but how I can serve others. A humble, but hard working attitude of excellence demonstrated consistently is a winning trait in today's marketplace.

Lesson #3: Develop a Personal Mission Statement: As a teacher, my mission is to be a teacher of excellence by adhering to the three P's: passion, planning, and perseverance. This mission is in the core of my heart. As I pick out my clothes to wear--I think about it--as I plan my lessons--I think about it--before leaving home for the day--I think about it.  I'm always asking myself, "Am I demonstrating the three P's today? Am I being a teacher of excellence?" Sometimes, out of tiredness, I want to waver, but I know in my core that wavering is the slippery slope to mediocrity that many people never recover from. I never want to be mediocre. By adhering to my mission to be a teacher of excellence, I always keep myself in check. 

Lesson #4: Don't Set Out to Build a Wall: I love all those Will Smith motivational videos. So many times, I want to build my wall overnight, but it doesn't work like that. In the classroom, I can't walk in on day one and expect perfection. However, I can bring my absolute best to the classroom every single day, and by doing so, I'm laying those perfect bricks that will turn into an awesome wall! This takes patience and perseverance. Greatness does not happen overnight. Never give up! Piece by piece, inch by inch, victories will occur. 

Well, these are four life lessons that I've learned, which help me to maintain a desire for excellence. We all have our stories that give us the courage and motivation to keep going no matter what. I believe the key for me has been to always look at hardships and joys as learning experiences and opportunities for growth whether it be spiritually, mentally, or physically. 

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