Last week, our daughter called to tell us she was struggling with a class. She’d already dropped this class once so she felt some serious pressure to get through it. And, she’s a people pleaser through-and-through so she is serious about getting good grades and keeping that GPA up.
I take credit – and blame – for some of her need to do well in school. As a former school teacher, I impressed upon both my kids the importance of doing their very best. It’s not that I expected straight As ….but…. okay, maybe I did expect that.
As we discussed how best to get the necessary support, I heard myself say: “Sydney, you will never use this class in your career. Companies don’t look at GPA. They want diplomas and graduates. Just pass it. Who cares what the grade is?” Basically I told her not to push for excellence but to push for good enough. Was I wrong?
I really thought about this over the course of the next several days. I was not wrong. The fact is we don’t have enough time/energy/resources to pour excellence into everything. We must choose how best to channel our excellence. It’s important she graduate. It’s important she be able to find a job in a career that excites her and uses her unique talents. It is totally unimportant if she makes an A in this class (or a B or even a C – she just needs to get the credit).
Sometimes we need to revisit our goals and values to remind ourselves how to channel our worries/efforts/focus. Her goal is to graduate. Her goal has never been to graduate with a 4.0. If she can remember the true goal then the pressure in this one class will be reduced – and likely by reducing that pressure, she’ll actually do better. Make sense?
Where do I put too much pressure on myself? Where do I pursue Excellence when Good Enough will do? In order to answer this question effectively, I must again look at my goals/dreams/desires and then compare that to how I’m spending my actual time and my worry time.
Or… ugh … where do I put too much pressure on my husband, my kids, my friends?
Yesterday I did my Orange Theory workout. I was tired from a sleepless night, it was really early, and I simply did not want to be there. As I was pushing myself – and I mean pushing myself – this topic resurfaced in my mind. Immediately, I lowered the incline and the speed. I still worked but I didn’t reach for excellence. Yesterday, good enough was good enough. Instead of trying to “get all that I could” from my exercise, I decided to be satisfied with the fact that I moved. One of my life goals is to be fit and healthy so that my husband and I can do some cool things together. Excellence with physical fitness is important. But, good enough is good enough from time-to-time.
I just sent my first novel out to ten beta readers. It’s not perfect. It will NEVER be perfect. If I strive for perfect then I will never reach my life goal of being a published author. Eventually, I will have to decide the novel is good enough. If I hold out for perfection, then I’m basically using that as an excuse not to move forward – which I think is a form of fear.
As my novel sits on a shelf for two weeks and then as I receive and incorporate the feedback, I will complete one last re-write to make it as close to perfect as I possibly can. Then, I will close the file, begin the publishing process and call it good enough. I think my next novel may actually be titled “Good Enough.”
I’m going to force myself to embrace the old adage: Perfection is the Enemy of Done
I hope I can instill this in my daughter – I’m a bit afraid that the perfection I’ve already instilled in her will be hard to carve out. I doubt she’ll make an A in this class – maybe I can show her that the world did not cave in, that life did go on – maybe I can show her that good enough was good enough.
Now, what I did not tell Sydney was that she shouldn’t work hard or do her best. What I’m trying to say is that doing our best is the best we can do. Doing our best is our excellence – regardless of the results. And yet, sometimes, I don’t think we need to do our best. I folded clothes just a few minutes ago. I did not do my best – I threw the socks together in a loose pile, I tossed the underwear in a huge pile in the drawer. Who cares? Maybe you care – maybe that is important to you – cool! It’s not important to me and I refuse to feel badly that I didn’t do my best.
In this blog, however, I am pursuing excellence. But what does that mean anyway?
Excellence is not perfection. Excellence is not even a test of quality.
Excellence is a moving target … it’s about growth and maturity. For me, excellence is mostly about authenticity. Excellence for you may be something totally different. But, whatever it is, personal excellence changes as you change.
I’ve done some Internet research looking for a definition of excellence. Here is my distillation:
Excellence, then, has nothing do with an A in a class, a GPA, a best-selling novel, a clean house, perfectly folded clothes … it’s more than all of that … and less than all of that …
I think this may be a topic of several blogs … it’s pretty deep!
In April 2012 I had a mental breakdown. The real thing. I have about 36 hours that I don’t remember....