How important has getting good grades been to you in school?
We know that educators view grades as a means of understanding who they need to work with more and who they can challenge a little differently. As students, though, we view the process as either you are a winner or you are a loser.
I knew at a young age I wanted to get good grades but it was more about creating opportunities more than it was about being the smartest.
Unfortunately, even today, so many people from children, to teens, to mature adults walk through life believing they have to have an "-est" associated with them or else they are insignificant. They have to be the biggest, winning-est, youngest, oldest, etc. or else they might as well not exist. You know what else ends in -est? Test... and life is full of them.
What if I remind you that with most, if not all tests, getting everything 100% right is not the only way to score a passing grade. In the classroom, in instances such as math, science, or English, there are definite answers. Depending on the question, you may get them right or get them wrong.
However when it comes to stepping out of the classroom, there are often multiple answers that could be correct or even when you do the "right" thing, you may get an undesired result. As adults we often punish ourselves for getting undesired outcomes to the point of self-loathing, anger towards ourselves or others, or to the point of indifference altogether.
I have interviewed hundreds upon hundreds of people over the last seven years, and as pointed out by Dr. Mohan Kumar, a doctor and diplomat to France from India, not once can I recall ever asking anyone what kind of grades they got. Keeping this in mind, follow me on this journey of "success mindset" and let's prioritize where we should actually be "trying".
If you have ever had a mid to upper level position, you have probably heard phrases like "100% completion" or "this needs to be 100%" or something being referred to as "non-negotiable". These are often phrases used to invoke a sense of urgency or anticipation of a consequence for falling short of expectation.
The thing I noticed was that these phrases were often used when being asked to do something unrealistic or insignificant to any real outcome. The fact is, most things in life do not require a 100% performance in order to be highly functional. If 100% is the only thing that equals satisfaction, it will rarely be achieved.
If you think about the way we are graded in the American school system, almost any student can tell you that the system is slanted toward failure. From 1-100, how come only 40% of the scale is passing (from 60 [D] to 100 [A])? Think about how often a teacher would weight 1 test at a higher percentage than other tests taken, which could swing your grade one way or another?
As adults, we have been so conditioned that the margin of passing is so slim that we naturally expect to have to race against failure. We believe that we have to do everything at 100% when in reality a 70% to 99% could equally be effective.
How many times have we found ourselves making absolutely no effort because we didn't think the 80% effort we had to give would be a good enough start? How many times did we not hear from someone because they thought our level of expectation of them was higher than it really was and they didn't want our disappointment?
This is not to say that we should lower our standards. However we do need to change our threshold of being unrealistic. No one can 100% parent. No one can 100% govern. No one can 100% educate. No one can 100% give to their partner every day. Some days will have to be a 70%, a 50%, a 90% or an 80%.
Perhaps you may agree with the group-think that "the first impression is the most important or most accurate" or even that opportunities are "once in a lifetime" but to no one's surprise, I don't believe that at all. Maybe THAT opportunity was once in a lifetime but there are many paths to successful outcomes. And sometimes that bitch really isn't a bitch.
The conditioning we receive in school and sometimes at home is that when we are supposed to be making our mistakes in order to get better, we were still being graded and judged. There were plenty of times that I or a colleague chose not to invoke a write-up or termination based upon someone's mistake. In life, training never ends in some areas, but we should learn that some mistakes are severely more costly than others.
The thing that often causes us to make those severely costly mistakes at work, with our partners, with our families, or with our bills is because stress and pressure lead to those feelings of judgment. We are worried about that customer's reaction, the boss's expectation, being everywhere on time, and meeting everyone else's standard.
So what do I expect you to do about this? One suggestion that I have learned to live with over the last couple of years is to find something you can love about what you hate. I hate commuting in traffic but it's less painful if I'm listening to the right motivational message or returning phone calls to loved ones while it's quiet. I hate waking up early but I enjoy having the house in silence for a couple of hours to start the day.
The thing about it is I don't commute 100% with motivational messages or always 100% wake up early. I don't stress myself out about sticking to routines and rigidity. I prefer my life to be fluid with a committed level of vision. Some people need strict and structure. However, it isn't healthy to punish oneself for breaking structure occasionally.
If you hate being a single parent, you can love that you don't have to constantly check in before making a decision or have to constantly argue in front of your kid. If you hate your job you can love that it pays for you to start your side hustle or drive your dream car until you make a switch.
Think back to the hardest class and the most enjoyable class you ever took. Which do you think of first: the material you learned or the teacher/tutor/mentor you had? Much of what we grade ourselves on has less to do with the procedures and more to with the connections.
Our success is a greater relationship between the 30% of time we take to perfect a skill and then the 70% of time we need to demonstrate and sell them (not a real statistic, I'm just saying). Perhaps this is where the true 100% comes from in success.
We are more successful when we "be about it" versus stressing about it. Fight the belief that 100% is the only acceptable way to try something or be something or else it isn't worth doing or worth living. Give yourself the permission to make adjustments and find new ways to achieve different levels of success. Be willing to adapt to your ever-changing ideas of what success means to you.
Whatever grade you are currently giving yourself in an area you are beating yourself up about, I challenge you to to remember that 100% isn't the only passing grade. If right now you consider yourself a D, then what can you lean into about that area that would make you a C-? You don't have to jump all the way to an A+.
If you are currently an A+ in an area you love, what can you apply from that experience to an experience that is smothering you? How can you add value to the toughest parts of your life?
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This Fall I will be offering training and products to help you on your personal journey to live healthy and safe by creating momentum in your energy shift. I am excited to continue helping you to unblock your dreams and your courage to walk your own path.