Excel in Life

Everyone’s idea of excelling at life is different. You are an individual person with a unique set of life experiences. These experiences have influenced your ideas about yourself, your goals, the world, and your definition of success. Excelling at life doesn’t always mean that your life will be a smoothly running machine where you’ve overcome every failure and achieved all of your dreams. Be realistic about what excelling at life means to you. Make creative, flexible goals, and develop a hardy sense of self-worth and confidence. It’s also important to understand that success means doing your best.


Determining How You’d Like to Excel

  1. Make a list of your ideals and values. Think about the ideals, values, and moral attributes that are important to you. These might include being a good friend or being healthy. Values and ideals are the ideas about life that you think you need to excel. They are different from goals in that goals are more concrete actions that can be completed.[1]
  2. Make a list of all the ways you can excel in life. The first step is to figure out what excelling at life means to you, as well as for your values and the kind of life you want to have. It may take time to sort through all of these questions and to decide what excelling at life truly means for you. Try to create the broadest possible definition of excelling in life: short-term, long-term, big dreams and small successes.
    • Get a journal or notebook that you dedicate solely to your new vision of your life and how you want to see yourself succeed. Start by making a list of all the ways you could excel at life, whether they are realistic or not. Write down your highest aspirations all the way down to simple things like doing the dishes every day.
    • You may find that your definition of excelling at life can start with making small changes every day, whether it has to do with your personal health, finances, career goals, family, romance, personality traits such as being more kind, or nurturing your friendships. [2]
  3. Make a list of your goals. Look at your list of the ways you can excel. Then look at your list of values and ideals. Begin to figure out how they match up. Which goals accentuate your views about life and the kind of person you want to be?[3] Start to group the ways you want to excel into similar categories, such as career goals, hobby goals, health goals, family and friendship goals.
    • Then group these into long-term and short-term goals. You might have a health goal of being able to weight-lift 300 pounds, or you might have a career goal of becoming a journalist, or you might want to wash the dishes every night.
  4. Prioritize your goals. Now that you have started to get clear on what excelling means for you, start prioritizing your goals. Which ones are long-term goals that will make you feel like you are excelling at life? Which goals can you practice on a daily basis in order to feel like you are living your life in a positive direction?
    • Excelling at life can be as simple as interacting with people with kindness, being a more organized person, investigating bigger life changes like a career change, or making an effort to spend more time with your family and friends.
    • The most important part of defining what excelling at life is for you is that it resonates with who you are as an authentic person and what kind of life you want to live.[4]
  5. Find role models. Your journal will become your personal source for focus and inspiration. Perhaps you have people in your life who inspire you because of their attitudes, strength, and perseverance. Find a picture of them or something that reminds you of them, and paste it in your journal. Use your role models to inspire you and remind you of what you aspire to be.
    • You can also consider famous people, such as musicians or athletes, who inspire you because of their life, their actions, or that you can look up to and admire. For example, the Dalai Lama has been a symbol of peace for decades, even under great adversity. You don’t have to become the Dalai Lama to remind yourself of his strength and attitude. This reminder can help you stay focused on the kind of person you want to be and the life you want to live. Think of these people as inspirational tools.

Pursuing Your Goals

  1. Be flexible with your goals. Let your idea of excelling at life evolve as you do. Shaping your life into an experience you feel is excellent may take some trial and error. You may think you want to achieve something, such as a high-powered career as an attorney who works 80 hours a week. But what happens when you decide you want to have a family? You might find that as your values change, your goals will change to reflect those values.
    • For example, maybe you wanted to be a veterinarian. But once you investigated the schooling and medical skills required, you discovered that you don’t really want to work with animals in that way. Using your journal, start to explore other careers that involve working with animals. Maybe you want to make natural pet treats, work at a human society, be a dog trainer, or foster animals in your home. Learning how to excel at life means getting to know yourself in a very authentic way and being flexible in achieving your goals. [5]
  2. Periodically reassess your plan. Don’t limit yourself in making changes that you feel will match your definition of excellence in life. However, one of the biggest factors of success in living a fulfilling life is resilience.
    • Maybe you want to plan a movie night for your family, but no one can agree on a movie, or family members make other plans. Basically, your goal for that day did not work out. Maybe your plan can be adjusted to asking people in your family what they would like to do to spend more time with you. Maybe you need to organize individual time with everyone instead of planning group activities. Don’t give up on your goals. Instead, reinvent, redesign, and always go back to the drawing board. Be resilient and stay focused on your goal to spend more quality time with your family. [6]
  3. Don’t underestimate the little things. Make a list of small things you can excel in every day. This will help you feel like you’re moving towards excellence. Excelling at life comes down to appreciating yourself enough to know you deserve a fulfilling life. Besides career, money, family, there is also YOU!
    • Excelling at life could mean trying to laugh more, trying to be kinder in your everyday interactions, starting a realistic workout regimen, eating better, or taking lessons like painting, golf, or dancing. When you engage in a life that feels authentic to you, you are excelling at life. It can be that simple.[7]
  4. Continue to build your list of ways to excel. Using your journal, keep building your list of ways to excel in life. Life is a journey and there is always more to explore. As you continue to evolve and your ideas of what excelling at life continue to evolve, be flexible and listen to your intuition. Educate yourself about the goals you are striving for and don’t be afraid to switch directions if you have new ideas or thoughts. [5]
  5. Post reminders of your goals. Remind yourself of where you want to be and the attitudes you want to encompass. Make posters or reminders that you hang in your office or home.
    • Start a collection of motivational quotes on index cards that you keep with you. Collect quotes from the internet, books, movies, or your friends. This can come in handy if you feel discouraged or frustrated. For example, the quote, “Courage is the rarest of talents,” can help you remember that living a fulfilling life can be hard but is very brave.

Building Confidence and Self-Worth

  1. Write down your positive qualities. In order to excel at life, you have to want to excel at life. You will have to develop discipline, perseverance, resilience, and drive. The easiest road to developing these qualities is learning to value yourself for your abilities, courage, worth, and valuing your existence [8] Engage in positive self-talk by writing down all the positive qualities you can think of about yourself. Add to this list as much as you can.
    • Read this list every morning when you start your day. You are the agent in creating your life, so if you are going to be mentally and emotionally prepared to strive to excel in your life, you need to nurture your self-confidence to the point that you believe in yourself. Celebrate yourself for even wanting to create an excellent life. [9]
  2. Reframe negative themes in your life. You may have received negative messages in the past from your childhood, your social experiences, or the society you live in. Those messages can be much more ingrained than you think.
    • Write down every negative thing you have ever been told, or that you think about yourself. Take some time to look at that list and start reframing negative themes that there may be in your life. For example, everyone has made mistakes in their life. Are you still holding on to guilt and shame about these mistakes? Did someone tell you that you were stupid or worthless while you were growing up? Do you still somehow hold on to that message and let it hinder you?
    • In order to excel at life, you must begin to shed those negative messages and replacing them with positive ones. An easy example of this that most people engage in is negative self-talk. Say you dropped your keys on accident. What are the first thoughts in your head? Perhaps you think, “I’m so stupid, I can’t even hold on to keys.” If you pay attention, you may find you speak very harshly to yourself throughout the day. In striving to excel, you are the coach, the team, and the star player. You have to start treating yourself as someone who deserves the excellent life you are building. [10]
  3. Empower Yourself. A major factor in creating lasting, positive change in your life is that you have to see yourself as someone who can create change. Take responsibility for who you are, what you do, and what you choose. Embrace the power of choice in your life, and understand that every day you are making choices.
    • Remove the word "can't" from your vocabulary. "Can't" is a word that stops creativity and makes you feel stuck in your situation. But the word is usually a replacement for a real meaning. For example, you might say, "I can't speak French." What you really mean to say is: "I don't know how to speak French." When you say "can't," there is an assumption that there is no solution. If you say that you don't know how to do something, then you recognize that you have agency in a situation to change how you act or think.[11]
    • For example, yes, you get up and go to work every day….but do you HAVE to? Absolutely not. You could choose to stay in bed and lose your job. Choices have consequences, but it is very important to shift the focus from things you feel you are bound by to understanding the power of choice you have in your life. Will you choose to go to work? Yes, because you don’t want the consequences of losing your job. It’s still a choice. You are an agent of change, and you make choices every day. Empower yourself by fully embracing the power of choice that you have. [12]
  4. Keep a positive perspective. Is the glass half empty or half full? Or is it just a glass with some water in it? Creating a life where you feel you are excelling depends heavily on your perspective. Along with creativity, resilience, and determination, your perspective on life and reality goes a long way in determining feeling as though you are striving for mastery of your life.
    • Write down some examples of things that recently disappointed you and then write down how you felt about it. For example, maybe your small cupcake business isn’t doing so well. Does that mean defeat to you? Does that mean that life is working against you so that you never will be happy? Take a look at the statements you have written down. Perhaps they are black and white statements like: “I will never get what I want. Nothing ever goes my way.”
    • Try reframing these statements and internalizing a new perspective. For example, instead of taking the perspective that you have failed, try to reframe that thought. Tell yourself, “Okay, there must be another way to do business, something else I can try, a different way to market, or maybe I need to explore a different business model.”
    • Try to notice if you shut yourself down without giving a new perspective a chance. In order to excel at life, you have to view life as something that you want and will excel at with endless possibilities and a healthy desire to strive to explore those possibilities. [13]
  5. Remind yourself that you’re doing your best. It is important to remember to be kind and easy on yourself. In order to create resiliency, self-esteem, and self-worth, you must be okay with things not working out. To keep the flame of determination as you work towards excelling at your life, you must keep yourself in a healthy mind space of doing your best according to the circumstances. [14]
    • Always doing your best regardless of outcome also will reduce your stress and keep the focus on things that you can control. This will help you empower yourself, strengthen your sense of agency, and let go of stresses over things outside of your control. You did your best, and that is excelling.[15]
    • Let’s say that your cupcake business just isn’t a feasible business venture. If you explored all your options, enacted creative changes, and truly gave your all in making the cupcakes sell, you have done your best. Although you may perceive your cupcake business a failure, you did your best, and that is a success. You got practice using all of your skills and brilliance and that is a success. You tried something different. That is a success.[14]
    • Knowing you did your best and focusing on that as excelling instead of the outcome will help you keep trying new things and striving for the life you want. [16]
  6. Appreciate your circumstances. Doing your best will be different for everyone depending on the day, circumstances and context. If you were sick and didn’t execute a project to your expectations, take into consideration that you were sick. You did the project anyway, and under the circumstances of being sick, you did your best. That’s all you can do, and doing your best is always reason to feel good about yourself.
  7. Keep a daily log of what you did best. In your journal, start making daily logs of ways that you did your best that day. Maybe you had a difficult day at work where you felt misunderstood or blamed for something that went wrong. It’s easy to feel shame and embarrassed, but instead honestly ask yourself, did I do my best? Journal about ways you did do your best and ways you could have done things differently.

Finding Support

  1. Surround yourself with positive people. These are friends and family members who will encourage you and support you. You may have to take some stock in your personal relationships and make decisions about the people in your life and whether or not they hold you up or pull you down. Honor yourself. Part of honoring yourself is honoring that you deserve to be around healthy, supportive people. Excelling at life is a pretty hefty goal, and it involves every aspect of your interactions.
  2. Nurture relationships with the people who are important to you. Part of excelling in your life is having thriving relationships that are mutually supportive. Think about how you be a better friend, partner, or parent. Think about why you truly value the people in your life who love and support you.
    • It can help to write down your thoughts about these people. Write about the help you have received from people in your life. Include how you want to best help and support them. This can help you recognize concrete ways that you can strengthen your relationships.
  3. Contribute to your community. Becoming a well-rounded, grounded and aware person who excels in life also means becoming involved in your community. Tune in to your empathy and compassion. Learn how to show these qualities to others. This will not only make a difference for someone who needs help, but can also benefit you, your sense of yourself, and your sense of the world. It will also help you feel proactive and empowered.
    • Think about areas of service you think you might be interested in. You could volunteer at a homeless shelter, soup kitchen, after school program, the humane society or animal rescue. If you’d rather volunteer other skills, you could try offering your skills in web design, accounting, or tax help to nonprofit organizations. There are many ways to give back while building a life and personhood you can feel proud of.

Related Articles

Sources and Citations

  1. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/notes-self/201308/how-set-goals
  2. Sullivan, Gregory S.; Strode, James P. Motivation through Goal Setting: A Self-Determined Perspective Strategies: A Journal for Physical and Sport Educators, v23 n6 p19-23 Jul-Aug 2010.
  3. http://www.mindtools.com/page6.html
  4. Cerasoli, Christopher P.; Ford, Michael T. Intrinsic Motivation, Performance, and the Mediating Role of Mastery Goal Orientation: A Test of Self-Determination Theory. Journal of Psychology. May2014, Vol. 148 Issue 3, p267-286.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Cerasoli, Christopher P.; Ford, Michael T. Intrinsic Motivation, Performance, and the Mediating Role of Mastery Goal Orientation: A Test of Self-Determination Theory. Journal of Psychology. May 2014, Vol. 148 Issue 3, p267-286.
  6. Locke, Edwin A.; Latham, Gary P. New Directions in Goal-Setting Theory. Current Directions in Psychological Science (Wiley-Blackwell). Oct. 2006, Vol. 15 Issue 5, p265-268.
  7. Locke, Edwin A.; Latham, Gary P. New Directions in Goal-Setting Theory. Current Directions in Psychological Science (Wiley-Blackwell). Oct2006, Vol. 15 Issue 5, pp. 265-268.
  8. Pomeroy, Heather; Clark, Arthur J. Self-Efficacy and Early Recollections in the Context of Adlerian and Wellness Theory. Journal of Individual Psychology. Spring2015, Vol. 71 Issue 1, p24-33.
  9. Jemmer, Patrick. Self-Talk: The Spells of Psycho-chaotic Sorcery. European Journal of Clinical Hypnosis. 2009, Vol. 9 Issue 1, p51-58.
  10. Jemmer, Patrick. Self-Talk: The Spells of Psyhco-chaotic Sorcery. European Journal of Clinical Hypnosis. 2009, Vol. 9 Issue 1, p51-58.
  11. http://www.embracepossibility.com/blog/empower-yourself-now/
  12. Devloo, Toon; Anseel, Frederik; De Beuckelaer, Alain; Salanova, Marisa. Keep the fire burning: Reciprocal gains of basic need satisfaction, intrinsic motivation and innovative work behaviour. European Journal of Work & Organizational Psychology. Aug2015, Vol. 24 Issue 4, p491-504.
  13. Klymchuk, Vitaly. THE MOTIVATIONAL DIMENSIONS OF LIFE EVENTS' PERCEPTION: Towards an Individual Motivational Mapping on Self-Determination Theory basis. Education Sciences & Psychology. 2014, Vol. 28 Issue 2, p78-92.
  14. 14.0 14.1 Yang, Yunxi; Danes, Sharon M. Resiliency and Resilience Process of Entrepreneurs in New Venture Creation. Entrepreneurship Research Journal. Jan2015, Vol. 5 Issue 1, p1-30.
  15. Martin, Andrew J. Implicit theories about intelligence and growth (personal best) goals: Exploring reciprocal relationships. British Journal of Educational Psychology. June 2015, Vol. 85 Issue 2, pp. 207-223.
  16. Liu, Ya; Wang, Zhenhong; Zhou, Changjiang; Li, Tong. Affect and self-esteem as mediators between trait resilience and psychological adjustment. Personality & Individual Differences. Aug 2014, Vol. 66, pp. 92-97.

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