What if We Gave Ourselves Report Cards?

A few weeks ago, I was doing my morning pages, and there was a thought that kept popping up for me. 

“Everything in my life is at about 85%” Why is that? I thought about all of the various areas of my life–my health, relationships, my work, my home. Everything. Why am I not doing what needs to be done to bring those numbers up?

It stayed on my mind all day.

Then later that afternoon, I hopped onto a call with my mastermind group, and the topic of the day was “Good to Great” inspired by the book by Jim Collins. Our cohort leaders, the fabulous Susan Blackwell and Laura Camien asked us to consider what would be required of us to take our individual projects (in my case, my book) from Good, to Great. 


Well, if that wasn’t the universe shouting instructions to me to have a big think around this topic, I don’t know what it was.


In general, I feel like things are pretty good all around. No major complaints and I’m extremely grateful for all of it. Yet, in every area, I can see a hundred things I could be doing to make it better. Why was I not doing them? 

  • Relationships: We have wonderful friends-both here, and abroad, but I could be much better about making plans with people. We often come up for air on a Friday, and realize we have no plans for the evening.  
  • Home: You all know how much I love my gardens, but there are a few areas that are looking less than great. It wouldn’t take much to clean them up, I just….haven’t. 
  • Finances: I’m very fortunate, and in a position where I have what I need, enjoy the present, and actively save and invest for my future, but I don’t feel that I am as financially savvy as I could be. I know that by reading a few more books, and putting a good team in place, I would be in an even better position.
  • My doctor is big on lab tests, and mine are all A+. As far as my blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and other numbers are concerned, there is nothing to improve. I also eat a fairly healthy diet of mostly organic, homegrown vegetables and lean protein. But not only was I never quite able to lose those stubborn lbs I wanted to lose in my 20s and 30s, I am also totally acing that global average of gaining a pound a year between the ages of 30 and 50, and that is a test I’d have preferred to fail. I know why that is, I know how to fix it, I just haven’t….yet. 


Like I said. It’s all Good–some of it is “Very Good”, it’s just not Great. I’m giving myself a lot of B’s and even some B-’s. 


And yes, I’m happily married, with wonderful friends, and a beautiful home on a beautiful island, where I can grow plenty of food. I freaking LOVE my work–which happens to be a lucrative business that I built  myself, where I get to help people every single day, and I’m not in any danger of starving to death in my old age (because of both my savings and my waistline!)


Maybe I should just be grateful and content. After all, we can’t do EVERYTHING, right? 


Only we know (deep within ourselves) what we are truly capable of, so, really, we’re the only ones who can issue that report card. Others around us might tell us we can do better when we know that we had already done our very best. And other times people tell us that our work was fantastic when we know we had sort of just phoned it in. 


Photo by David Mao for Unsplash.com


In my writing and research into the topic of human potential, the one question that I keep butting up against, is the question of “how much is too much?”

I’ve talked to many strivers, dead-set on reaching their fullest potential, who are miserable. Burnt out, full of perfectionism and anxiety. Constantly under self-inflicted pressure to be the absolute best version of themselves all the time. Utterly flawless in their appearance, their home, their social calendar, and their work. 

But they’ve been hungry for 3 decades straight and feel a strong sense of self-loathing any time they see the scale go up, or a wrinkle on their face, they had to drive to 3 supermarkets to get enough limes to fill that bowl on the dining room table, they hate the people they “have to” spend time with, and they haven’t had any fun or downtime in years because there is always more work to do to make a project (insert performance, screenplay, book etc) absolutely perfect. 


They might be putting out better work than the rest of us, but they are dying inside


Photo by Tatiana Rodriquez for Unplash



So, back to the idea of giving ourselves report cards. Is it even worth it to strive for the A+? Will doing so ensure misery and burnout? 

Not if you do it right. 

My hunch (which has so far proven right in my exhaustive and global 3-week experiment on myself) is that the answer is two-fold. 


1. Give Yourself Permission to Shape-Shift

We can’t be perfect at everything all at the same time. There is no way you can be the perfect boss, the perfect parent, the perfect partner, and also the perfect host, gardener, friend, stock analyst, athlete, artist, cook, and housekeeper all at the same time. We all know this, so we should stop feeling guilty about it.  Our lives shape-shift a bit. With different areas needing more or less attention at any given time. 


2. Ask the right question

Instead of “How can this be perfect?” Ask yourself, “What’s something I can do to take this closer to Greatness?” This concept is not new. Whether it’s the idea of the mini-leap, or improving by 1% each day, it’s about taking 1 step at a time and allowing the results to compound. 

  • Make a lunch date with a friend
  • Use the fancy plates to serve tonight’s thrown-together dinner
  • Give your project one additional edit
  • Find someone to do a run-through for before the “big” performance
  • Do one more set of reps

I have every intention of getting that report card up to all A’s, though I have a sneaky suspicion that life and experience have a way of moving that bar up constantly, but maybe that’s where the fun is. 



P.S. Interested in a few top tips on how to take your career as an artist from Good to Great? Grab a copy of my free workbook “10 Habits of Successful Artists” or sign up for my weekly Friday newsletter: The Weekend List.

See you soon!

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