The 3 C’s of Personal Excellence: Commitment, Courage, & Continued Learning

 In Building Mental Strength

In a previous post, I discussed the four controllable elements of peak performance that are within our control. In this post I will introduce some basic behaviors that

can help you to change your direction of focus to that which is within your control. There are three basic behaviors we can adopt to reorient our focus and they are: Commitment, Courage, and Continued Learning. These are the 3 C’s of Personal Excellence. Without further ado, let us look at each C individually.


When you commit to something there is an implied level of emotional attachment, especially if this commitment is made public. Committing to something means that you are going to devote yourself completely to the pursuit, with a realization and acceptance that the journey will not consist exclusively of successes or fun experiences. A committed person knows, and expects, that pursuing excellence will result in failures as well as the need to be comfortable being uncomfortable.

Once you realize and embrace what it means to truly commit to something, it becomes clear that you really committed to yourself. You believe in your abilities to develop the skills and knowledge in order to accomplish your task. This commitment needs to be to your coach(es) as well as your teammates. Interestingly, committing to others fulfills a basic psychological need that all of us desire. This basic psychological need is to feel as though you are a part of something bigger than yourself, that you are not alone in your journey for personal excellence.


We are told from a young age to expect perfection from ourselves, especially in high pressure situations. When we do not accomplish this perfection, we are branded a failure. In fact, this demand for perfection has been immortalized in the saying “practice makes perfect”. Expecting/demanding perfection is actually detrimental to our quest for personal excellence. This may come as a surprise to many of you reading this, but let me explain why.

Perfection should never be your goal prior to a high-pressure performance because this is not within your control and will only serve to remove you from a present minded focus. Let’s unpack this a little bit. If you expect perfection in executing a particular skill, how about executing a perfect bounce pass in basketball, you are ignoring many factors that are present in a game. You are not accounting for the increased speed, the presence of the opposing team, your teammates fatigue and potential distraction(s), the effect spectators have on your attention, the increased pressure of performing, etc. Therefore, you are not focused on being in the present moment and executing the fundamentals. This focus on perfection leads to inevitable failure. This failure unfortunately will not be interpreted as an opportunity to learn and grow because of the extremely narrow definition of success: perfection or failure.

So, how does courage play into one’s pursuit of personal excellence? Simply put, one has to have the courage to not only fail, but also understand that this failure is only helpful for development with careful, and constructive reflection on the attempt. We as humans do not like to critically think about our failures and work through what needs to be adjusted and what worked well for us. Thus, we need courage to look deeply at our performances, preparation, commitment, and ability to be comfortable while being uncomfortable. Speaking from experience, this deep self-evaluation is often scary.

When we have the courage to fully reflect on our performances, training, and overall commitment to our pursuits, we will be much more likely to take chances. It is when we take chances that we learn the most about our current level of personal excellence and our potential levels of personal excellence.

Continued Learning

How do we fully commit to something and develop the courage to take chances in our training and performances? The answer is simply one must strive to continually learn from the pursuit of personal excellence. Lessons extracted from this journey should not only come from our failures. Success is a powerful teacher, especially when we redefine success based on the 3 C’s. Using the concepts discussed above, success and failures should be viewed as one in the same as they both contribute equally to the journey towards personal excellence. Why don’t we take a look at an example to better understand what I mean by this.

A youth basketball player is learning how to shoot a layup with their nondominant hand. They have the courage to take on this challenging task because it will make them a more well rounded player, which will help the team perform better. To do this, they will have to commit to additional practice time, often done by themselves. This basketball player decides that every other day for the next month they will practice 100 layups with their dominant hand (their right hand) and 100 layups with their nondominant hand (their left hand). To be deliberate in their practice, they are going to practice these layups in sets of 20 reps and alternate between right- and left-handed layups (20 right-handed, 20 left-handed…5 times through). This athlete also knows that they need to reflect on their performance, so they will take one minute in between each pairing to reflect on their progress. The first pairing goes as such: RH 20/20 made; LH 13/20 made (65%). One could look at this as a failure, as a 65% shooting average for an easy shot is not particularly good.

However, with a different definition of success, one should instead reflect on what went well 65% of the time and what adjustments need to be made the other 35% of the time. By practicing RH layups just before LH layups, this basketball player is reminded of the fundamentals of a layup, which can direct them in their execution of LH layups as well as inform their self-reflection between sets. This method does not demand perfection, nor is perfection the dominant goal. When we insist that practice makes perfect, we lose sight of our own personal excellence. A better phrase, one championed by Dr. Michael Gervais of Finding Mastery, is “practice makes pattern”. It is this pattern of fundamental skill execution that you will rely on to perform at your best, and will be developed through Commitment, Courage, and Continued Learning.



Additional Sources

Leonard, G. (1992). Mastery: The key to success and long-term fulfillment. New York, NY: Penguin Books.

Mumford, G. (2016). The mindful athlete: Secrets to pure performance. Berkley, CA: Parallax Press.

Orlick, T. (2016). In pursuit of excellence: How to win in sport and life through mental training. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Ravizza, K, & Hanson, T. (2016). HeadsUp baseball 2.0: 5 skills for competing one pitch at a time. Tampa, FL: Hanson House.

Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2000). Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation, social development, and well-being. American Psychologist, 55(1), 68–78.


❮❮ Back