I have to be honest, grades were important to me. From the time I was accepted into Jr. Beta Club in Middle School, it was on. The anticipation you feel as the teacher is returning tests; that was exciting to me. If there was extra credit, I did it even though there was never a need to. Then one day a teacher revolutionized my whole world. She handed out a grades template that displayed how much each assignment [homework, tests, papers, etc.] was worth and allowed you to keep up with your overall grade during the semester. This meant I knew what was on my report card before I ever received it! For someone compelled to organize everything and over achieve, this was a new addiction. (Listen, if I haven’t said it before “I’m a nerdy little dude.”) As for all of us, school became a thing of the past. The problem? The report cards didn’t.
Last week I wrote about trophies in our life, how we hold on to past accomplishments instead of focusing on what needs to be done right now. We do this even when we know better. The flip side, honestly, is the area I struggle with more. I grade my performance on everything at every moment. How good was that conversation? Did I get my point across in that piece? Why don’t I get up earlier so I can make a difference in the world? Am I a good enough son-brother-husband-friend-neighbor-employee-man? Much like that template, my mind quantifies the areas. If I do the dishes and laundry, that’s a few points. If I get upset with my wife, that is a major deduction. If I help form a partnership between two non-profits, A+. If I don’t support men I oversee well enough, F-. So there I am, constantly tallying points throughout the day to see if I excel, fail, or simply slide by. But there is a better way.
One writer (using stronger words) shared about kicking his own behind. He wrote about how, like myself, he was harder on himself than anyone around him. Reading it, I had to concur. I have a wife, a family, a group of friends, a community network and even fellow workers who see the good in me. They look at what I achieve and give it all a gold star. They know when I try at something and fall short, but still applaud the attempt. They remind me that my task list is impossible…and that is okay. The only person who is bad mouthing, degrading, and not believing in James Aaron Snow…is James Aaron Snow. That’s it. So what to do?
Here is the assignment (for you and me). Stop with the report card. No more C- when you fell short at work or F+ when you don’t finish a project at home. Yes, we all have a mission and things to accomplish with our days. But first, stop beating yourself (myself) up for what is not done or not done “perfectly”. We cannot live up to our own over-inflated standards. It is like standing in front of a circus mirror where everyone is looking at us and seeing normal, but we are looking at the reflection and seeing a weak, anemic figure. You can do this. I can do this. Now let’s get out there and live life, leaving the report cards in the classroom where they belong.