By Etheline Desir | Desir Group | LeadershipBrief.com
In observance of the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I want to share his powerful yet simple quote: “If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.”
Since, as the legendary Forest Gump stated, “Life is like a box of chocolate; you never know what you are going to get,” it’s important we acknowledge that each person’s journey is different. Comparing ourselves to others, personally or professionally, brings us discontentment, a negative energy that saps away our sense of accomplishment and worth. We are only required to do our very best!
Do you sometimes feel that no matter what you have done, you should have done more? Many of us have been imbued with the idea that we must constantly strive to be better, earn more and to seek to achieve greater and greater goals and objectives. Maybe our cultural programming has taught us never to be satisfied with our accomplishments, no matter how much they may have exceeded past performance. I recall a colleague in graduate school who earned all A’s, except one B. Unfortunately, it was the one B that was the constant reminder that she had failed to achieve perfection which resulted in her unhappiness for weeks.
While exponential growth would be a highly desirable outcome for any of our endeavors, we must ask ourselves, at what price? To what extent should our desire to excel cause us to diminish the joy of a balanced and purposeful life? We have heard that “virtue is its own reward.” If our leadership is characterized by integrity, knowledge, compassion, humility, and trust, yet not hit a home run, are we a failure? And what determines true success? Who’s better off—the rich man who thinks he’s poor, or the poor man who thinks he’s rich?
When we live a purpose-driven life and are doing our best, there is no need to feel ourselves lacking in accomplishment; no need to feel that we are only mediocre because mediocrity is the result of failing to do our best with full awareness of our deficient behavior. No one who is living a life of integrity and service to others should ever allow false beliefs to diminish the joy and satisfaction that comes from doing his very best.
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