How do we discover what brings us joy and fulfillment? Where do we look, what do we do? There are many deep questions that we can ask about our life, but I’ve found that the answers are usually simpler than we think. This idea of finding joy in excellence came to me while reading Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance. It’s not a new idea, but hopefully the way I fraise it will help you to have an incite of your own.
Joy and Fulfillment can be tricky to nail down, What makes me feel fulfilled may be different from what makes you feel fulfilled, and this is where I thought maybe it has nothing to do with what were doing and everything to do with how we feel about what we’re doing.
As I read Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance I came across an over arching idea that helped me explain my own fulfillment and I hope will allow you to create more fulfillment in your life.
Excellence and the striving to do everything in our life well is where we can find joy, it’s where the elusive fulfillment is hidden. So often we take action for reasons that aren't our own. Because someone told us we should, because society said we should, because we want the praise, the attention, the love. There are a million drivers to do the things we do in our lives and anytime we place an external driver behind the thing, we lose the joy. This isn't the most straight forward idea so I will try to unpack it.
When you act out of a place of needing something external the joy is mitigated from the activity. If you look at the things you love to do, you do those things because you want to. You enjoy the activity for what it is, and you try to do it well. The secret to living a life that you love is recognizing that you can choose to do everything in your day to day life and when that clicks you will be flooded with joy and appreciation for how great your life is now.
There is a quote “how you do one thing is how you do everything”. By doing the small things right, by doing them well you will train yourself to do everything else well and when you’re doing everything well your life transforms. The thing about excellence and where it can be easy to get sidetracked is, we like to compare our excellence to the person next to us. It’s a non comparative excellence that will make your life better. Do the best that you can do right now, and apply that to everything. You will get better, you will learn and grow and feel alive and this will further allow you to do things in an excellent fashion.
We need to stop condemning where we are in life and wanting to replace it with some made up version of what we think our life should look like. Your life is what it is, and the quickest way to make that enjoyable is to accept it and live it. Embrace where you are and do the tasks that are required of your day to day. If you want those tasks to be different, map out a plan to change them and then execute that plan.
Life isn't hard, life is life, but the story we tell ourselves about life make it hard or make it easy or make it beautiful and full of joy. Become aware of the story that you’re telling yourself and the feelings that it’s eliciting in you. Our feelings change when the story changes.
Take your life as it is right now and challenge yourself to strive for excellence. Do the dishes well, walk the dog well, dress well, cook well. Doing things well adds a level of care, it creates meaning. The events of our life have only the meaning that we give to them.
There are two great byproducts of adopting an excellence mentality, you become more mindful and present, because it’s hard to do things well if you're not present and secondly you start to become aware of the latent talent that you have inside of you. Stop just getting by, just making it to the weekend, just making it through another year, because this is it, this is life. Everything we want to change, the pain, the fun, the laundry it’s all that we get. Live it. Live it well.