The one A- that changed it all
Managing Your Stress
Part Two: Being the Best of Being Your Best
Topic: setting attainable goals
On a recent job interview, I was asked about my 4.0 GPA. Who was the one pushing for that GPA? Was it hard to maintain? Did it mean I was a perfectionist?
You would think that a 4.0 GPA would scream success, but I can understand why it would also be concerning.
Who was the one pushing for that GPA? Me. I want to make all A’s; I want to be viewed as a stellar student; I want to achieve what is the symbol for the highest level of mastery. Was it hard to maintain? Mostly, it hasn’t been ridiculously difficult. Sure, it takes a lot of work, but I’m all about putting in my best. My best happens to get me such great grades.
Well, it usually does. Let me backtrack here. My GPA rounds up to a 4.0. It’s really a 3.989. Yep, I made an A-.
*INSERT GASP HERE*
So am I perfectionist? Well … I’m learning not to be.
To many, an A- is a great grade. To me, it was initially failure. I had set this goal of having an A-only transcript upon graduation, but it suddenly was no longer attainable. Photoshop wasn’t my friend, and my work just didn’t compare as well to the work of others in my graphic design class. Because I hadn’t set a truly attainable goal — there was no wiggle room — I was devastated. Yeah, I cried … more than once.
Eventually though, I had to accept that it would happen. I was going to get an A-, and it was going to be on my transcript. Did I really need to cry about it? It’s not like I had skipped class and failed to do my assignments; it’s not like I hadn’t spent more hours than I should’ve on my assignments, trying to do all that I could to make them look great. I had tried my best, and my best got me an A-.
If I could go back to my first-year self, I would tell her to be more realistic. I wouldn’t tell her to give up or stop trying, but I would tell her to be a little bit easier on herself. I would tell her to know when it’s time to stop.
Note: If you’re about to burst into tears, it’s time to stop.
So how can this help my readers?
Like the topic suggests, set attainable goals. I had visions of me graduating valedictorian, but there may be a Business Communication major out there with all A’s, so it may no longer happen. It wasn’t realistic to have my sights set so high as a first-year student. Better goals would’ve been: put in my best, study in advance, do all assigned readings, go to class each day, ask for help. Why would that have been better? Because I did all of those things, making me a smart, eager-to-learn student. I was successful because I was trying.
Don’t think you have to beat out everyone else … in your major, at work, in your family, in your group of friends. You don’t have to be THE BEST. What does that even mean? Isn’t there always someone better? Won’t someone eventually show you up?
Just be content with who you are. If you’re being productive and meeting (realistic) goals, you’re doing great!
When it comes to my running, it’s always a game of self-competition. Can I beat my old time? Can I feel better at this race than the last? For my time goals, I’m happy to beat anything by a minute. I’m definitely not telling myself that I’m going to win the race because at my current level that would be crazy. Likewise, it was crazy for a first-year student’s goal to be walking across the stage as valedictorian three and a half years later.
It’s always important to want to better yourself, but you can decide what bettering yourself looks like. It doesn’t necessarily mean getting a higher score, pay or title than the person next to you. It means feeling happy with what you’ve accomplished; it means giving it your all; it means reaching the end goal with pride because you know that you put your heart and soul into getting there.
Are you a perfectionist? How do you handle it?