Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Make 80 the new 100

I teach in a professional program. Sometimes my students worry me. They are so serious, so ambitious, expect so much of themselves. They want to look perfect, run every day, get A+s, graduate to a great job, have a wonderful husband who does at least 50/50, have smart, funny, relaxed kids (even though their mothers won't be one bit relaxed), make money, have life long friends.

Somewhere along the line someone told them good for you, you exceeded expectations, and now they think they have to do that in everything they touch. These are the kids who come to see me after every assignment wanting to know what they could have done differently to get that extra .5, usually to be truthful that I took off because they were telling me what they thought I wanted to hear and not what they thought, which of course  is what I am really looking for. They stand in front of me almost in tears about next to nothing say things like "I know I am a perfectionist, this isn't good enough for me."

Well maybe it should be I think. You will never be as young, healthy or as full as possibilities as you are now maybe, so enjoy it. Why let the little things cancel out the big things?

Well, yesterday I told them the best professional advice anyone ever gave me (they all took out their pens when I said that) and that was the best job you will ever have in your life you will love 80% and hate 20%, and when you realize that you only dislike 20% of what you have to do everyday and love the other 80, know you are where it's as good as it gets, and you should be feeling pretty pleased with yourself.

I have expanded on this concept and it works for me. You see I know I am not perfect .Yes, I give most things my best shot (housework maybe not so much) but I have decided that if I come through 80% of the time this is me operating at optima performance. So as long as I am not a 78% I am good, if I am an 81% this is excellent, and rare. The 20% well that comes with the territory when things are just about as perfect as they can get.

I apply this ratio to my sewing and my sewing success and it's about accurate. I can consider myself a wonderful sewer if I have only 20% that I don't really wear or like when I am finished.

This is helpful in situations when perfection is expected. Husbands who tell you are beautiful and mean it, but don't finish any household project they start, for instance, and naming no names.

Mothering. 

Weddings. In fact when my daughter who used to be a perfectionist was getting married and stressing about the details I told her "we are going to have 20% not work out quite right here and that's what perfect is going to be." 

So it rained, and it was an outdoor wedding, the musician had a heart attack on site and had to get rushed to the hospital, the groom left his tux at home (we were at a place in the country) and we had to send an electrician in to break into the house and get it, and her dad's girlfriend spilt a glass of red wine on the dress by accident.

And it was a perfect wedding, the best I ever went to.

3 comments:

Debbie Cook said...

Really great advice. Too bad that most people don't learn the lesson until they're way past their 20s. Once I realized that not everything in my house (literal and figurative) had to be perfect, I finally realized that it was OK to just let some things go and relax. No one's headstone ever mentioned how many dustbunnies were found under the bed. ;-)

sdBev said...

Barbara
That's really great advice. I wish some of my bosses had heard it.

Debbie, your response is priceless. No I've never seen a dustbunny count on any headstone.

Barbara said...

No one's headstone ever mentioned how many dustbunnies were found under the bed,

and isn't that a good thing.