Sunday, November 29, 2020

Excellence Happens on Purpose

For their final assignment of the semester, my Internship and Practice students had to reflect on both their ministry and coursework and offer up their perceived strengths as well as some ways that they hope to improve upon their self-identified areas for growth in the semester and year ahead. 

I found myself providing a common suggestion in regard to their ideas to help them improve: strive for more specificity and details.

To put it another way, excellence happens on purpose. 

Making a change and/or improving in anything requires more than just the desire to do so. 

In his book, Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg cites a study that followed hip or knee replacement surgery patients whose average age was 68 for thirteen weeks after their surgeries. All of the patients were given a booklet with instructions for recovery followed by thirteen blank pages for them to write down their goal for each week and exactly what they hoped to do. 

The result? Those who wrote something on those blank pages started walking again almost twice as fast as those who wrote nothing. 

The takeaway? Excellence happens on purpose. 

Fr. Mike Schmitz, the chaplain for Newman Catholic Campus Ministries at the University of Minnesota Duluth, recently wrapped up a six-part homily series titled, Roadmap. The short form is this: excellence happens on purpose. The longer form is well worth listening to (but jump to 23:45 to listen to Fr. Mike tell you about this study). 

In week four he talked about a study that followed over a large group of people who wanted to exercise over a period of time. The study broke participants into three groups: 

  1. track/write down how often you exercise;
  2. track/write down how often you exercise and watch a motivational video before exercising;
  3. track/write down how often you exercise, watch a motivational video before you workout, and write that you pledge to work out for 20 minutes of vigorous exercise on certain days of the week at certain times of the day. 
The findings, as if you really need me to tell you:

38% of Group 1 made it through the workout program. In Group 2, 35% completed it. And, 91% of the members of Group 3 finished the exercise program! 

Why? Because excellence happens on purpose. 

As we begin this season of Advent and as you approach any goal in your life: growing in physical fitness, praying more, performing classroom observations more frequently, acting more courageously, the more specific and detailed you can be about how you will do these things, the more likely we will be to accomplish them. 

In 2015, I accepted a challenge posed by the very same Fr. Mike Schmitz to pray the Rosary during Advent. At first, I agreed to pray it on days that I didn't go to Mass. As a Catholic school principal at the time, that meant every day except Sundays when I went with my family, Wednesdays when I went with the school, and most Fridays when I tried to go before starting work. By December 8 of that year, though, I started to pray it every day. 

The short form of the results of my acceptance of the Advent Rosary Challenge is that excellence happens on purpose. The longer form is that I have prayed the Rosary daily ever since and that Mary brought Jesus into the world and that she can bring Him to you as well. 

So, while there are countless options for your Advent journey, commit to something: 
  • some form of the Advent Rosary Challenge (pray a decade a day on Monday - Friday; pray a Rosary a week; pray a Rosary a day); 
  • sign up for Dynamic Catholic's Best Advent Ever
  • join Chris Stefanik in Unspeakable Joy
  • read the daily mass readings
  • or anything! 
And, apply this same model to any area of your life. 

Make a plan and make it detailed, because excellence happens on purpose.