A few months ago, my mentor told me that I should be aiming for B+ work.
Insert noise of record scratching.
Nobody has ever told me to aim for B+ work. The mere suggestion causes the mental machinery to seize up and steam. Why on earth would anyone shoot for a B+?
I’ll tell you why.
Because when you are adulting, oftentimes YOU are the grader. I can’t speak for you. I won’t speak for you, but I WILL tell you that I am a tough grader. My former students can tell you it was true in my classroom, and they don’t even know the half of it. As tough as I might have been in grading their work, I am SO much tougher grading my own.
So here’s what happens when I’m trying to complete something (that is if I don’t consciously aim for a B+). I start the project, full of excitement and ideas. I begin to execute them and then, I notice something. I notice something that isn’t perfect, that could be better, that would make my work an A+++++ if I could fix it and I KNOW it would take hours to fix. So I put it away, “to think about it.” But I don’t often think about it all that much, unless there’s information to find, in which case I spend a whole lot of time finding information. I gather that information and put it to good use, add it to my project, and then I notice something, something that isn’t perfect, that could be better, that would make my work and A++++…
Do you see where I’m going here? When I aim for that perfect grade, there are an infinite number of opportunities for my entire project to be derailed, set aside, shelved until “a better time,” labeled a bad idea, put on the bottom of the stack OR worked on obsessively (meaning instead of everything else) in order to gain very little in terms of what the rest of the world sees, IF the world ever sees it, because remember in order to put it out there, I have to grade it first, and if it has to be an A+… well… it just might be a while (or an eternity) before that idea, that program, that article, that song, that party invite, that landscaping plan EVER sees the light of day.
I’m working on not being such a hard grader (all of my former students may collectively stick out their tongues at my bad timing), but I’m also working on acknowledging the value of my B+ work, because there’s a LOT of value in my B+ work. There’s the work itself, the good stuff that I finish and put out in the world. There’s the programs, the articles, the posts, the songs, the quotes, the letters, the ideas and the plans. But that’s not where the value ends.
You see, every time I accept my B+ and get on with things I get a present, well two presents really. I get: 1) the gift of time, time I would have spent obsessing over small improvements nobody else would care about, time that I can now spend on other projects or on finding pleasure and 2) the gift of self-confidence and pride that I get every time I complete something I’ve decided to do, the boost in self-esteem that I get from reaching a goal and doing it well, the trust I cultivate in myself as I live up to my word. Wow. That’s a lot of value in exchange for letting go of a little perfectionism.
What about you? What grade are you shooting for? What would you get in exchange for lowering your sights? Where in your life could you take a B and be rewarded?
If the idea of aiming for a B+ fills you with horror but you sure would like to have more time, please do drop me a line. I’d love to help you learn to make that trade and feel great about it.