Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Pursuing Daily Excellence

I love to eat out. We don't eat out often because of the dietary restrictions of our family (plus that pesky thing called money) but when we do I want something I know will be yummy and preferably that I wouldn't make for myself. This usually means I don't try tons of new things- how do I know it will be good? I don't want to waste the experience. (And yes, I realize this means I miss out on some things; I'm working on it.)

It also brings us to a reality about business. A restaurant has to provide quality service if they want my repeat business. I'm not going to go to a restaurant that serves excellent food two days a week and mediocre food the rest of the time. Are you?

No one is going to do that. That's why businesses that succeed don't use that model. They don't say, "People might expect a high standard of excellence from us every day and we don't want that kind of pressure. We don't feel like performing at that level daily." Well, fine then, don't; but don't expect to have a business for long either.

I've noticed that people have no problem bringing that attitude to their home though. It doesn't bother them at all to say that they aren't going to serve or even spoil their family because they might expect that kind of treatment all the time. It doesn't bother them to say that the expectations are too high and they aren't even going to try to live up to them.

If I were a doctor (a profession I considered for some time in high school) I would go to work every day ready to give my all. Why? Because I would believe that my work mattered. Because I had promised to do my work to the best of my ability regardless of how I felt about it that day. I've reminded myself of that multiple times this past week. It's a good kick-in-the-pants about the attitude I carry into my work here in our home. I wouldn't complain about the workload. Of course there's a workload! I'm a doctor, not a greeter at Wal-Mart. It would be a position of prestige and a lot of routine hard work. Do I really believe less about my role in the home?

Our actions and our attitudes show exactly what we believe. It doesn't really matter what our words are if they contradict what we are doing. We show everyone what we think about our family and our work at home by what we do and how we do it. What is my attitude as I go about my work? Do I whine to everyone about how annoying my kids are and how the house always gets dirty right after I clean and my husband is working late again?

Sometimes what we do is comfortable. We are used to it; it doesn't require any effort. But I'm finding that another word for comfortable is mediocre. Comfortable work is usually mediocre work. We're not growing. We're not pursuing excellence. We're not learning new things and trying better ways to make things work for our families. We're just coasting because anything else would be- you guessed it- a lot of work!  I'm not really interested in living a mediocre life doing mediocre work especially for something as important as my family.

Excellence may mean stepping outside your comfort zone. Be a little uncomfortable in how you do your work; that's called learning.  I don't mean uncomfortable to be unsure if it's morally right. I mean uncomfortable to be that you can't do it on automatic. You have to really put some mental effort into what you are doing (like when you are learning a new song on the piano). And yes, this may make you extra tired. It won't hurt you. Try something new with homeschooling. Read some books about how children learn. Try a new cleaning schedule; teach your children to clean.

Excellence may mean being different from others. The complainers and the critics are everywhere. The miserable, grouchy women are everywhere. Find that joy in Jesus and be different. Show that you value your family and your work by your attitude.

Excellence may mean doing things that are difficult for you. It may mean speaking calmly to your children during correction and training when you want to scream. It may mean not rolling your eyes at your husband. It may mean disciplining yourself to get out of bed and get off the couch and do the work.

Excellence may mean doing things that you don't want to do. This past week I've done things every single day that I didn't want to do: things like cook dinner. And you know what? I'm still alive; it didn't hurt me at all. Instead I honored God with my obedience. I blessed my family because they really do have to eat.  And I helped my character; no one needs to spend their life doing only what they want. Do what you are supposed to.

Maybe imaging the attitude you would bring if you were a doctor doesn't help you. But something does. What is it? How can you push yourself to seek that excellence in your home life? Don't worry about my quest for excellence. What my family needs may be totally different from what your family needs. Find what your family needs and pursue it with excellence. Day in and day out, regardless of how you feel about it.

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