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Giving 100% vs Being Perfect

You know that moment when you’re paralyzed by fear? Or you think that you can’t get started on something, or finish something, because it’s just not perfect yet?

Or maybe you find yourself dabbling in this or that, but not really pouring all of yourself into something because you can’t do it perfectly anyway, so you think, “Why should I give this my all?”

Ah, the typical trap of the driven woman: “Do I just get started anyway?” vs “No, I have to wait for xyz to be perfect before I can take the next step.” A little insight into my world: The concept that giving 100% does not mean doing everything perfectly, is one that I’ve been working on implementing and testing out over the last few weeks.

I’ve noticed that this is a phenomenon that we carry around as women. As Sheryl Sandberg noted in Lean In, “We lower our own expectations of what we can achieve.” This can lead us to what she calls the “impostor syndrome,” which is something that men don’t seem to have. We’re afraid to “fake it ’til we make it,” to get started without being perfect. But that’s not giving 100%. And I know that if you’re reading this right now, you’re not someone who only wants to give 60% or 70% or even 90%. You’re a 100% kind of person.

Now here’s the fun part. You are probably giving 100% in most areas of your life, but the need to feel perfect can blur our ability to see it. As a great example, I was chatting with a friend of mine about this last week. She was sharing that as she was waking her child to school for early an morning orchestra practice, they realized half way to school that they’d forgotten the cello. They had to run back home and pick it up. She felt so scattered and while she was laughing, she was frustrated. As successful women, we should have mornings “handled,” our kids should be on time, in perfect order with everything they need.

But that’s perfection, not giving 100%. Giving 100% in this moment means being there for her child. Laughing off the mistake and then suggesting maybe leaving it by the front door next time. She didn’t hit her child, or swear or blame. She was simply 100% mom. She helped fix the problem and moved on. That’s giving 100% to the moment. But she was having a hard time seeing that in herself. She was focused on the “How could I have forgotten it” and the “Why didn’t I notice earlier?” and even, “Why can’t I get it together in the mornings?” As most of us do, she was focusing on the lack of perfection, which skewed her ability to see how much she’d done well and the fact that she was 100% there for her child.

I believe that somewhere along the way, we’ve collapsed perfection with giving something our all, but they are not the same thing.

In work situations, there are things you know you need to be doing. You just know it. Giving 100% means getting those things done, asking for help when you need it and moving forward with the project. It does not mean that everything you do will be perfect, and that every report, talk or e-mail you put out will be the best thing anyone has ever seen. But it does mean that you’re giving 100% to what you know you need to do.

I’ll bet you’re thinking there is a little bit more to it than that, and you’re correct, there is.

Giving 100% also means not cutting corners, it means doing the “yuck” task first and it means giving what you do your attention, love and focus. It means facing the “I don’t wannas” and it also means you have to be honest with yourself and look at where you’ve been phoning it in, where you have cut corners and where you’ve checked out.

Now, all that being said, this is actually much easier than feeling that we have to be perfect all the time. That’s something else entirely, and the need to feel perfect has done a lot of damage to relationships and it’s responsible for killing many dreams, don’t fall prey to the idea that you have to be perfect.

So give yourself a little breathing room over the next several days and try out the idea that giving 100% does not mean you’ll be perfect, or that you’ll even produce perfect results. But it will mean that you do everything you know you need to do, with integrity and focus. And as we all know, when we show up like that for the people and work in our lives, we can end up producing some pretty amazing results.

If you’re having a hard time picturing what this can look like, here are three things you can do this week to get yourself going.

1) Start with with the one task you don’t want to do, whether it’s at work at home.

2) Proactively plan out how you’d like to react when you’re feeling overwhelmed, or something pops up you didn’t expect (much like our cello story above). Do you want to be graceful, find the humor, be focused? If you plan it out before it happens, you’re much more likely to react that way in the moment.

3) Each morning, ask yourself how you’d like to feel when your head hits the pillow later that night. Do you want to feel accomplished? Successful? Loving? If you start with the end game in mind every day, you can play full-out, giving 100% all day long.

Share in the comments below about what you’ve come up with this week to shed the “perfection” idea, and instead give 100%.

Have a wonderful week.

xo,
Sarah

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