Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Do Hard Things: Raising The Bar

"The complacency of fools destroys them." - Proverbs 1:32

In my previous post on Do Hard Things, I mentioned the first of five kinds of hard - getting out of your comfort zone. I have tried to embrace this principle and challenge myself over the past week and I hope that perhaps someone reading this blog may have also done the same (if so I'd love to hear about it). Anyway, the second kind of hard that the authors refer to is what they call "raising the bar." Raising the bar means doing hard things that go beyond what's expected or required. As soon as I read the first page I knew I was in trouble.

The authors say that "just doing your best" is a trap. Doing your best often accomplishes the opposite, it gives us an excuse to not push ourselves to the limits of growth. Being "good enough" can turn into a special hazard, one where we begin to coast because we believe that we are surpassing others. But where are others at? If they are so low down in the quality of what they are doing/producing/accomplishing, then being a little better then them means nothing. To be truly great and growing we need to take what is often a lonely path, that of surpassing what is required.

Complacency. Complacency has real costs; mediocrity, excuse making. Life gets boring and we don't see why. That's why we must instead rebel against it and choose to do more then is asked, required, or expected. The authors suggest three ways to accomplish this. I warn you, any of these could change your life forever if you would just begin doing one of them:

1. Do what's hard for you. Don't worry about what's hard for others (but is no problem for you). Instead choose to the things that you find difficult, distressing, or even impossible.
2. Be known for what you do (more then for what you don't). If your most notable qualities are based on what you don't do (drugs, swearing, losing your temper, premarital sex, being in debt, skipping church, etc.) what does this say about you? You need to get known for your good deeds, not your lack of poor ones.
3. Pursue excellence, not excuses. It doesn't matter if you're already better then all of your peers, what would excellence look like for you? Have you pushed yourself to find out?

Anyway, as I was typing this it came to my mind that today I had lunch with a friend and we talked about our lives. I realize now as I reflect on our stories that he was a man who was pushing himself to excellence and I was a man who was not. Ouch! Seriously, ouch! I have fallen into complacency in so many areas. I'm doing "good enough" but its not enough. I'm not growing, I'm coasting. I'm bored with so much of my life because I'm not pushing myself. It's time for change . . . and it's not going to be easy.


Lee said...

Hey Mark - I love this challenge. It is so easy to fall into complacency. So, I'll commit to some action this week. I'll get back at some of our overwhelming paperwork that has to be done before our homestudy. Intentions are great, but action is required! :)
Feel free to ask me about my progress!

By the way I have one of the books on your wishlist (A Year of Living Biblically - if you want to borrow it let me know and I'll bring it on Sunday.)

Mark said...

Hi Lee: Glad to hear your stepping up and challenging yourself! I will ask you about it, good luck in taking it to the next level. And yes, if you'd like to lend me that book, I'd love to borrow it. Thanks!