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.
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?
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!)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!