Achieving personal excellence has been my biggest quest for many years. I tried many things, including higher studies (Master’s in business leadership), read several books on achieving the professional excellence, read scriptures, attended many workshop and seminars. However, I could not find a satisfactory answer. I found them more intellectually oriented. Sometimes my mind used to get satisfaction with an excellent definition, or by reading about people who achieved excellence in their lifetime. I also wanted to experience the feeling of achieving excellence within. I wanted to experience the level of confidence one feels that does not need any further proof.
It took me several years to understand the real meaning of excellence, to be in that state of mind where whatever I do, my performance is excellent, or I am progressively moving to excellence without comparing my results with anyone. There is no regret, no half-hearted attempt, just living life hundred percent, from moment to moment.
It didn’t happen overnight, it took several years of practising yoga, meditation, and being in knowledge. When I first time experienced the feeling of personal excellence, it came with a sense of completeness and calmness. For those many moments, I was enough to be happy.
K. Anders Ericsson has studied expert performance for more than 30 years and has documented how expert performers attain their superior performance by acquiring complex cognitive mechanisms and physiological adaptations through extended deliberate practice (Ref.1).
Thousands of years ago, Patanjali defined the meaning of practice, it is in being in the moment. According to Patanjali, being in the ‘Moment’ is the practice. What Ericsson has referred as deliberate practice, it is nothing but doing something with 100 percent attention. It sounds very SIMPLE, but it is not easy.
Try practising the easiest thing that you think you can do without any problem, e.g. reading one page of your favourite book daily without any break. After few days, the mind will start playing a trick, today I am bit busy, no problem, I can read two pages tomorrow, and very soon you will realise that a week has passed!
I have reproduced the shloka from Patanjali Yoga sutra (Ref. 2) as one will pronounce in English (Shloka is in Sanskrit)
Sa tu dirgha kala nairantarya satkara sevito drudha bhumihi
Sa tu dīrgha kāla – it takes a long time. Nairantarya – without a break. Satkāra sevita – with honor and respect. Receiving it and practicing it with honor and respect. Dhrudabhūmi – then it becomes firmly established.
If you want to master any skill, you need to practice it for a long time, without a break, with honor and respect then only you become a master in that skill. The problem with this universal success formula is in implementation. We want success quickly; we lack the discipline to practice anything for a long-term and quite often get bored in doing the same task again & again and ultimately lose the respect and honor in doing the task.
There is now ample evidence from many different domains that the number of years of experience is a poor predictor of objective professional performance (Ref.1).
Why is the number of years a poor predictor?
When we learn new things, mind fully gets involved with all the five senses busy in gathering information, and intellectually it tries to correlate with prior learning, drawing new conclusions, and send coherent signals to the body to practice the task in hand. As it becomes more familiar with the work, rather than going into more depth, the mind starts wandering into past or future events. It is the first barrier one must cross if one wants to attain professional excellence.
How to remain focused in these circumstances? Observe the changes in your body, in your breathing pattern, in your behavior, in your routine. Are you making progress? Have you reached the desired level success or just because you can perform the task, you have lost interest?
Don’t try to reach the result in a hurry because it is the surest way of losing the interest and it will delay your journey of achieving personal/professional excellence.
Let me share with you a simple example. When I started practising yoga, I was not comfortable with my head stand. Instead of learning the right technique from a teacher, I used the wall support to do the head/hand stand. I could easily do the head stand with the wall support, and it gave me the feeling of falls accomplish and at the same time a sense of failure that I can’t do proper head stand ever. It continued for fifteen years! It was only when I went for the advanced yoga training, I learned the right technique of performing the head stand, and within few weeks I could do the head stand without any support. That was a great feeling. When my body starts listening instruction from my mind.
- Development of Professional expertise – Towards Measurement of Expert Performance and Design of Optimal Learning Environments- Edited by K. Anders Ericsson