Characteristics of an Excellent Life


How do you define excellence?  What describes an excellent life?  Many have tried to describe what is best seen, felt, and observed over time.  For example:

“We are what we repeatedly do.  Excellence, then is not an act, but a habit.” – Aristotle

“If you are going to achieve excellence in big things, you develop the habit in little matters.  Excellence is not an exception, it is a prevailing attitude.” – Colin Powell

Excellence is often assigned to both what we do and how we do it.  As Aristotle said, it is also a habit.  And, it is important for both little and big things, says Powell.  So, how can we describe excellence?  What describes an excellent life?

I believe there are 10 key elements or characteristics that describe an excellent life.  This applies to excellence associated with both “people performance” and “how we live.”  I have tried to describe an excellent life by what characteristics always accompany it.  So, take a look and see if you agree:

10 Key Characteristics that Describe an Excellent Life

  1. Intentional – Excellence is an act of the will or personal desire to excel – it is not accidental.  An individual acting with excellence has the express intent to perform at a level higher that is expected or than others would aspire.
  2. Attitude – Excellence is not a single act, but an ongoing high standard of personal performance.  Many attempt to ascribe excellence to a single event or action by an individual.  However, excellence is define more by attitude (purpose) than any single result.
  3. Improvement – Excellence is the result of a constant push to do better.  It is a dissatisfaction with the status quo.  Excellence is the result of this ongoing desire to improve.  A person of excellence is always working to raise the bar of their performance or treatment of others.
  4. Value – Excellence imparts value to yourself and others.  It is visible, uncommon, and desired.  Excellence makes things, people, and time better.  A person living an excellent life is constantly striving to add value to the lives of others.
  5. Discipline – Excellence is the habit resulting from doing small things well over and over again (e.g., See quotes above by Aristotle and Powell).  Excellence is not the result of a doing one thing well on one day.  It is typified by ongoing, focused effort.
  6. Integrity – Excellence is typified not just by what you do, but by how you do it.  Excellence is not defined by results, but by how those results were obtained, how people were treated, and how you feel by being with and around that individual.
  7. Sustained – Excellence is not a “flash in the pan.”  It is a high standard of performance exhibited over time.  Excellence is typically ascribed to a lifetime of effort, not one “excellent” day or event.
  8. Urgent – Excellence is typified by action.  A person living an excellent life is one that not only seek to do well, but does it.  An excellent personal realizes that “talk is cheap” and is usually the first to initiate or take needed actions.
  9. Service – Excellence is not confined to one individual.  A person living an excellent life will, to a very large extend, be dedicated to others.  An excellent life is one that is poured into making a difference to others.
  10. Godly – Is it really possible to live an excellent life as described in the 9 characteristics above in our own human effort?  I would argue that one might achieve several of most of these with typical human effort.  However, I would contend that no human life is truly excellent without a focus, dedication, commitment, and dependence on God.  When we place our lives in the hands of His Son, Jesus, we are empowered to live our lives in ways that impact others.  An excellent life will also be marked by a life dedicated to serving others and God.


So, how does my list of Excellence Attributes work for you?  When you consider excellence in how we live, would you always find these 10 characteristics.  Think of that one person in your life that you would say most closely typifies “an excellent person” or “an excellent life.”  Would you find these elements in their life?

So, the question for us is this, “If we agree that these characteristics define an excellent life, how do I measure up?”  What do I need to change in my life?  How can I raise the bar on how I live and how I treat others?

My hope today is that my description of an excellent life would make a difference to you or someone else in your life.  If any of these 10 elements is missing in your life, what can you do to seek it for your own.  Things to consider.  Have a great day!



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