If you’ve ever been to Noosa in Queensland you’ll know how beautiful and sparkling the beaches are. On a recent trip to Noosa with my family, something incredible happened to me on my morning run.

Being the competitive type – and, of course, being a massive advocate of continuous improvement – I take my morning runs very seriously. So when I ran up the trail in the Noosa National Park, I was pretty focused on getting from A to B as quick as I could. But something amazing happened on my way up to see the magnificent view, called Hell’s Gate, at the top of that National Park.

I was running as quick as I could and a woman called out, ‘Stop, look at this!’ Thankfully, I did, and as I looked down at the spot in the ocean she was pointing towards, I saw what she could see: a whale breaching. If you’re lucky enough to have seen one of these incredible creatures raising themselves out of the water and displaying their massive bodies, then you’ll know just how stunning and beautiful they are. It was well worth the brief break on my time trial run.

But I set off again as fast as I could, trying to make up time, and I got no further than 100 metres up through the forest when this time a man stopped me in my tracks: ‘Come and have a look at this!’ I looked towards the ocean for a whale, but this time saw no fewer than four dolphins, swimming and leaping across the surf. I went on and finished my exercise, but for the rest of the time I wasn’t focused on my time; I felt like I was running on clouds. It was a real ‘wow’ moment for me and I headed back so excited to tell my family about the amazing examples of Mother Nature I’d seen in action.

The next day I ran again and, like I’d won the lottery, I saw another breaching whale!

The whole experience got me thinking and, to be honest, I was a bit cross with myself. If those people hadn’t been there on my first morning to tell me about those wonders in front of me, that were better than any of the world’s theme parks, I would have run right past them. I would have missed out on one of life’s great experiences, I wouldn’t have seen those whales or those dolphins. Which, by the way, were all the more wonderful experiences for having those people there to share them with.

In our desire for success and continuous improvement, in our constant busyness and focus on getting from A to B, we can miss out on some of the richest experiences life has to offer. We have to take time to stop and see what’s going on around us.

Now, I’m not saying that striving for continuous improvement and being the best you can be is wrong. Of course not! It’s vital to strive for our own personal ‘black belts’, be focused on them, but remember, like my run in the Noosa National Park, it’s what we see and learn along the way that’s as important as the prize.

We have to make sure that our black belts don’t come at the expense of taking time to see the beauty around us, or listening and caring for a colleague, or taking the time to play and have fun with our families. It’s a simple question of emphasis – and one we need to get right.

I want to leave you with a question: in your striving for excellence and being better today than you were yesterday, what are the ‘whales’ or ‘dolphins’ you might be missing out on? Because, to paraphrase Cat Stevens, your desire to be the best you can be will still be there tomorrow, but the beauty and wonder – and people – around you may not.

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