The Order of Excellence
“Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.”
Do we act rightly because we are excellent or does excellence come as a result of acting rightly? This central question is important to consider as we tease out the implications on our lives while pursuing excellence. Athletes, coaches, and teachers (both in basketball and other walks of life) must wrestle with this question as they attempt to develop a theology of motivation within the realm of sport. This question takes on a special significance as coaches decide how to relate to their players as they try to get the most out of their teams. The question becomes, do players have excellence inside of them that must be summoned on a regular basis, or, does this idea – that everyone has intrinsic excellence – miss the mark? Does this line of thinking place an overemphasis on the attainment of virtue without regard for its processes?
Following the order of excellence is crucial if we want to improve our consistency as basketball players. Ultimately, the
more consistent we are, the higher our level of performance. Let’s first consider what excellence is NOT before we explore the notion of how to achieve it. Excellence is not a buried treasure waiting to be discovered; it is not a magic potion or secret mechanism. Although excellence is available to those who act rightly, the attainment of it is not a treasure hunt with a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. We are inclined to find shortcuts to excellence, but reality is that there are no formulas, 5-step DIY manuals, or treasure maps that show us the road we must take.
Excellence is a laborious process; it is the summation of thousands of individual decisions that comprise a greater work of art. It is like a sculptor who starts chipping away at a piece of rock. The sculptor does not expect to see the piece of art take shape after only a few swings of the chisel, but understands that each cut into the rock brings him closer to a beautiful finished product. The daily decisions we make every day are the ONLY things that matter if we desire to become excellent. Begin with the end in mind so that your day-to-day activities are guided by your ultimate goals. The order of excellence begins with acting rightly which slowly leads to virtuous habits. Ultimately, virtuous repetition is the path that leads to excellence; the decision is yours, the choice is up to you.