Is it the pursuit of excellence or the journey that matters most?

12 Apr

Written by Kirri White

When I received my first report of straight A’s at the tender age of eight – I recall my dad reacting with pride and jubilance.  In some way, the diminutive column of letters reflected his own achievement and were unanimous proof that I had been listening to all of his routine pep talks:

“Practice makes perfect.”

“The early bird gets the worm.”

“Whatever the mind can conceive, man can achieve.”

“Never give up.  Embrace the positive.  Whatever you resist will persist.”

“No matter what, you are a survivor.”

These are just some of the quotations that my dad used to regularly impart to me and my three siblings from a very young age. Sometimes they would come off the back of something celebratory such as when my older sister won a school cross-country run and dad firmly decided that she was now a professional athlete in the making.  Occasionally, they would also come when one of us had a less than stellar performance and were in need of assurance or a virtual shove to persevere.

Most of the time, I soaked up these references with the typical adulation of a true daddys’ girl.  As a teen, I occasionally resented them.  Whatever the case, I soon had his favourites firmly committed to memory and used to find it extremely amusing to mimic them back in silly voices (in my head only of course!)

From what I could ascertain, my fathers’ sayings seemed to follow a similar vein.

Life was all about striving to do your best, reaching for the stars, and never ever giving up.  I learned early on, at least in the metaphysical sense that I could excel at just about anything through sheer hard work and determination.

The problem lay with my dad being equally fond of referencing quotes that were fixed at the opposite end of the spectrum

“Life is all about the journey.”

“It’s the journey that matters, not the destination.”

“This is your journey and you will carve your own path.  Just don’t forget to notice the signs and rainbows along the way.”

It all got to be a little bemusing after a while.  I felt like he was telling me to strive for excellence but to also ensure my life was one big yoga retreat!

This philosophical puzzle was further compounded by my reading. Some books would have messages about giving life your all, reaching for the stars and striving to be your best and then others would recommend slowing down to smell the roses and living life purely for the moment.

So which one is it?
Is life, in essence, the dogged pursuit of achievement and self-actualised potential?  Or is it about the meandering trail of memories and special moments that we, as individuals are required to pause and suck up?

Robin Sharma, who speaks on success and leadership refers to ‘“ambidextrous leadership” as a way of explaining the need to effectively balance the sometimes opposing roles of a leader.

For example – A great leader is rational and logical, making sound and sometimes difficult decisions. But a champion leader is also a humanitarian – someone who understands and celebrates the heart of people.

Sharma espouses the same approach to life.

The essence of life lies not in the execution but in the balance.

Now, maybe I’m a bit of a slow learner, but this was my ‘Ya-ha’ moment for the week.

Life is all about balance and the complex symmetry of making it happen with letting it happen.

How do we balance work with family?  How do we strive to afford ourselves and our families the material luxuries in life while also living lives with greater connection and meaning?

How do we be the best that we can be while at the same time appreciating each step on our climb?

How do we counter moments of playfulness and frivolity with the seemingly endless and often burdensome responsibilities of being an adult and a parent?

How about the desire to be a decent and dare I say ‘nice’ person, without being taken advantage of or seen as lesser or weaker than?

My message for today and the advice my dad was trying to instill in me all those years is simple –

Make your plans, strive to achieve all your goals but don’t be so busy striving that you miss out on the climb.  Work hard AND play hard.

Always give it your best shot but don’t forget to capture those precious Kodak moments.

Play your best game and have fun doing it.

Be nice but firm.

Be someone your kids want to hang with but also know how to instill boundaries and make some of the less popular decisions.

Look at your life and aim for balance.  I know, it’s not particularly profound but often the beauty really does lie in the simplicity.

My only wish is that I had the opportunity to tell my dad that I finally get it.

He was a legend.

What valuable lessons have you learned from your parents?

How do you practice achieving balance in your life?

~ Kirri


8 Responses to “Is it the pursuit of excellence or the journey that matters most?”

  1. Warwick April 12, 2011 at 9:07 am #

    Hi Kirri,

    A friend of mine asked me the other day, “what is life about?” I have been thinking about it and asking others since.

    Not got a complete answer as yet but I think it has something to do with quality of life, balance and what decisions you can live with.

    I am also thinking it is not so much what you think life is about but that you think life is about something; that you have a vision. It is ok if that vision changes over time to suit the your circumstances.

    Looking forward to your next post.

    • Kirri White April 12, 2011 at 12:54 pm #

      Being a slightly curious creature myself, Im always happy to hear people asking ‘life’ questions and examining the bigger picture, as it were.

      I agree that having a vision for your life is so important, as is living with intent. Having that vision evolve is both crucial and edifying for personal growth and happiness.
      It sounds to me as if you are doing a bit more of both these days and seriously, that is music to my ears!

      Thanks so much for sharing.

  2. Terry April 12, 2011 at 8:29 pm #

    I recall so little about things my Father said to me, he was a man of few words, so it is very moving to hear the way you remember your Father’s voice.

    Every good saying has a opposing saying, penny wise pound foolish -vs- take care of the pennies and the pounds take care of themselves…etc… Is this the universe trying to give us the same message.

    You have a way of writing it that makes it so easy to contemplate and understand….thnx,

    • Kirri White April 13, 2011 at 6:09 am #

      “Penny wise pound foolish” – I’ve never heard of that before. I love the way it flows! Are you British?!

      Thank you so much for your kind words. Always fab to hear your thoughts.

  3. Terry April 13, 2011 at 9:19 pm #

    British indeed…

    I do recall one of my Father’s phrases…”everything in moderation”. That seems to match the balance idea well…:)

  4. Lifeasmummymax April 20, 2011 at 10:31 pm #

    Im still trying to work that out, Something i have thought alot more about since my last baby especially.

    Just letting you know that I’m awarding you with the Versatile Blogger Award.

    You can read more about it here:

    I’m also passing the rules for accepting this award:

    * Thank the person who gave you the award and link back to their site in your original post.
    * Tell us seven things about yourself.
    * Pass along the award to fifteen newly discovered bloggers.
    * Contact these bloggers and let them know they got this award.

    • Kirri White April 21, 2011 at 5:43 am #

      Thanks so much! I so appreciate that…wow!
      I will get on to that list asap. Thanks for checking me out too.

  5. Catch the Kids April 24, 2011 at 8:23 am #

    My mum is the one with the sayings. My kids think they’re hilarious. But the lesson are sinking in. Now they quote them to me!

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