Director of the Romney Institute of Public Management David Hart spoke to students about pursuing excellence in becoming who they are on Feb. 10 at the Marriott Center.
Hart’s key message for his audience of students was that personal excellence is not about being the best, but being the best at whatever they choose to do. He emphasized at the beginning of his message that students are each born with unique potential, potential they need to fulfill during their lives.
“You have been blessed with a set of skills, abilities and gifts that are unique to you and you alone. Furthermore, you have an obligation to find out what those are and then figure out how you can express them — in other words, how to imprint your uniqueness of self on the world,” Hart said.
Hart said the gospel of Jesus Christ has taught students that their main purpose on the earth is to become — “To become our best, but more importantly, to become perfect, even like our Father in Heaven is perfect,” Hart said.
He spoke about the amazing opportunities available in mortality and stressed that students have an obligation to take full advantage of their experiences here on Earth.
Then Hart spoke about personal excellence. “I do want to encourage you to be true to yourself, your God-given potential, and be excellent,” Hart said.
Hart talked about how many students are at the point of their lives where they want to be excellent but don’t know how to imprint their uniqueness on the world around them. He expressed hope that these students recognize the sacredness of their decisions.
“Your challenge is to discover the set of gifts that are distinctly yours and find ways to give expression to them,” Hart said. “I strongly encourage you to remember that there are multiple and sometimes subtle ways to fulfill your potential as one of Heavenly Father’s children.”
Hart urged that in order to be healthy and happy in this life and the next, students need to fully develop themselves. He again counseled that this reflective process should be guided by the Spirit.
“The world would have us believe that ‘finding yourself’ is a self-centered journey without consequence. You do not want to rely on what the world tells you that you should do with your life — your potential is yours alone, and it is your sacred obligation to figure out what that is and to purse it,” Hart said.
Hart then gave five suggestions to help in coming to “know thyself.”
1. Be engaged.
Hart encouraged students to be engaged means giving one’s whole and best self to whatever one is doing.
“The first step to being engaged is to be fully present in whatever demands your attention. Give your total effort and attention to whatever you are doing. Even if it’s a dumb homework assignment, a boring conversation with a friend, or a mind-numbing, soul-sucking job, it’s in your interest to be fully engaged and give your best effort,” Hart said.
He explained that this attitude puts students in tune with themselves. “The less engaged you are in life, the less in touch you will be with your potential. Being engaged will teach you a lot about yourself, your interests and where you can pursue your excellence,” Hart said.
Hart encouraged students to seek out opportunities for deeper and more meaningful levels of engagement while being anxiously engaged.
“Remember, however, that the most meaningful, fully human activities almost always involve betterment — making the people and environment around us better in some way” Hart said.
2. Increase self-awareness.
Hart acknowledged that people need to know themselves first and foremost.
“In short, you have to know who you are before you can figure out what you are going to do with yourself,” Hart said.
Hart counseled students to be aware of technology. He said in the world of unprecedented distraction, technology has provided unlimited access to information and entertainment. He said it is truly a blessing but can also be a curse.
“My suggestion to you is to build absence into your lives. Set aside times to unplug, remove distraction and let your mind wander,” Hart said. “Build spaces of quiet into your lives, be patient, and I think you will be surprised by the results.”
3. Be awe-full.
Not in the horrid sense, but in the amazing sense.
“So my third suggestion to you is to be awe-full. Or, put another way, be full of awe. Make a conscious effort to find awe and wonder in the small and ordinary of everyday life.”
He counseled students to find the awe in the natural beauty that surrounds them and in the spiritual side of things they do. “Earnestly seek to see and appreciate the Lord’s hand in your life, because it’s everywhere around you,” Hart said. “All of us here are tremendously blessed in ways we may not fully realize, and we all benefit even more when we recognize the Lord’s influence in our lives.”
4. Be selfless.
Hart told students to throw themselves into whatever they are doing.
“The gospel of Jesus Christ is completely grounded in selflessness. The Atonement of our Savior was the ultimate act of selflessness. The Lord voluntarily took upon himself the sins of the world so that we can return to the presence of our Heavenly Father,” Hart said.
He referenced the Gordon B. Hinckley quote, “Forget yourself and go to work.” Hart said being selfless would keep students grounded as they seek to find and exercise their personal excellence.
“The Lord challenges us to lose ourselves so that we can have the attitudes that will keep us grounded, humble and open to learning. In losing ourselves, we learn about ourselves — and that insight provides invaluable perspective in finding our excellence,” Hart said.
5. Be compassionate.
Hart explained his final piece of advice with a dash of kindness.
“Being dialed into your feelings of empathy and acting on them is also necessary in finding your excellence. Compassion is an indispensable part of personal growth that will reveal much about your distinct set of skills and what types of situations will allow you to better the people and environment around you,” Hart said.
As he concluded, Hart told students to remember to engage in life, create time for absence, find reasons to say “wow” and selflessly serve others with love and compassion. He promised students they would learn a lot about themselves and the gifts bestowed upon them.
“Spend your time here at BYU learning about who you really are and preparing yourselves to have an impact on the world. Then, go and do. Be excellent, and make a difference,” Hart said.