In the 1980s, an 18-year-old named Steve Fonyo made big headlines in Canada, where I grew up. Fonyo lost his leg to cancer, then committed to run across the country to raise money for cancer research.
It was an ambitious goal. Fonyo started at the Atlantic Ocean and headed west. Day after day he slogged on, dodging prairie blizzards and running on a specially-designed prosthetic leg.
After 14 months, Fonyo dipped his leg into the Pacific. The nation cheered; $13 million was raised. Fonyo was awarded the Order of Canada, the country’s second-highest honor.
With his huge goal completed, Fonyo seemed unsure what to do next. Sadly, his life took a turn for the worse.
In later years Fonyo again made big headlines, but this time it was for alcohol and drug abuse. He struggled to hold a job. He struggled relationally. He faced numerous criminal charges, including assault with a deadly weapon, fraud, and theft. In December 2009, his membership in the Order of Canada was revoked.
An important lesson can be learned from the downside of Fonyo’s life. Setting and completing a huge goal is a noble undertaking. But the real challenge is to live with consistent excellence, day in, day out, one day after the next.
How do you live with consistent excellence?
Some say the key, whenever you complete a goal, is immediately to set another. Success emerges when mountaintops are connected. A good life is an endless string of aiming for the next big thing.
Sure, there’s much merit to repeated goal setting. Yet I believe consistent excellence comes in a quieter way—when you remind yourself daily of the core reasons that you live for, and then make choices with those reasons in mind.
Think of these core reasons as the foundational motivations that keep you going in good directions. Have you ever defined your core reasons for living? The criterion for identifying them is straightforward. Just ask, “What’s most important?”
If you’re seeking to define your core, below is an example, mine. Your list will undoubtedly look different, but perhaps this list will provide ideas for what’s most important to you as well.
My top 5:
1. GOD. I want to please God in everything I do. Sure, I believe in grace—that God loves unconditionally and offers unmerited favor. But I also believe my actions can tick him off. I don’t want to do that.
2. SELF. Self-respect is everything. By “self” I don’t mean to elevate my position. It’s just that each morning when I look in the mirror, I don’t want to look at an idiot. My actions and choices can go a long way (or not) toward who I am, and become. Even though it sounds counter-intuitive to put “self” so high on the list, it’s the same principle of putting the oxygen mask on yourself first when riding on a plane, your child second. If self-care isn’t present, then pretty much everything crashes down in flames.
3. SPOUSE. I want to have the best possible marriage I can have. My wife is the babealicious love of my life, and I need to be consciously aware of nurturing that vitally important relationship.
4. KIDS. I want to be a good model for my children. I need to live wisely so I can speak into their lives. I don’t want them ever to lose confidence in me as a father.
5. WORK. When it comes to my career, I want every available opportunity. If I make wiser choices, then the more my career will benefit, and (hopefully) the more people I can help educate, inform, and inspire (my core reasons for writing).
In 5 minutes every morning I go through this list in my mind. It’s like taking a vitamin pill. It sounds like such a simple plan, and it is. I simply remind myself daily of the five main things that keep me going.
Do you want to live with consistent excellence?
Define what motivates you. And then live with that in mind, day after day.
You can do this.
You and me and Fonyo—we’ve all got what it takes.