The title of this article is the combination of two very famous quotes:
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
“Happiness is a journey, not a destination.”
The first quote is commonly attributed to Aristotle but it seems it was actually written by Will Durant. The second quote is by Alfred D. Souza, but I also saw it being attributed to Buddha.
In any case the combination of these two quotes occurred to me when I watched a lesson (in Hebrew) by my friend Ran Weber. He said (in my own free translation):
“Instead of constantly trying to search for the best thing we could possibly be doing, we should focus on doing as well as possible what we are already doing.”
The second part of Ran’s phrase, to “focus on doing as well as possible what we are already doing” is exactly the aspect of excellence. I believe that most people would agree that in order to achieve excellence we must be focused on what we are doing now.
But in my opinion the first part of Ran’s phrase is the secret to understanding why so many people are unhappy. These people can’t be happy, because they are “constantly trying to search for the best thing [they] could possibly be doing”. So they are focusing on some destination, and not on the journey. And thus their happiness actually becomes a “moving target”.
Example: What happens in our jobs
It seems that nowadays it is extremely difficult for someone to really feel happy about his or her job. People in general have this tendency to dream about a different job, in which they would have a higher salary, more interesting tasks, a better relationship with their managers and colleagues, more opportunities to grow and be promoted, and a company culture more suited to their own personality.
As a natural consequence, people in this situation don’t have the motivation to do their best. Because they feel unhappy, they also do not achieve excellence in their work. And this creates a downward spiral that is very difficult to escape from.
The downward spiral: If someone is not doing a good job, this person will not be assigned more interesting tasks. Neither will this person be able to improve his or her relationships with managers and colleagues. Finally, this person will have no opportunity to grow nor to be promoted.
So, the secret to achieve happiness, as Ran explained, is: “focus on doing as well as possible what we are already doing”. This is your job now, so simply try to do the best you can.
I believe that as a result of this approach of “always doing the best you can”, a person will eventually derive more satisfaction from his or her job: by having access to more interesting tasks, by gradually being recognized by managers and colleagues and eventually being promoted.
In other words, this person that is able to focus on excellence will also be able to enjoy the journey. At any point in time, this person will feel proud.
I think that this principle applies to employees in a company, but also to consultants, businessmen and entrepreneurs. Any professional can benefit from focusing on excellence and enjoying the journey instead of constantly looking for happiness somewhere else.
What do you think? Do you agree? Please feel free to share your opinion in the comments below.
Great two-in-one manta for excellence and happiness.
I agree that doing the best you can is generally the best strategy.
But it is also important to note, that it has it own limit. This idea itself could be very charming to unfair companies to have highly-motivated under-compensated employees. It could also lead the followers of this idea to burn outs.
So I believe it is necessary to also figure out some supporting markers to better evaluate the whole situation.