Have a Happier New Year with ‘B Student’ Mentality
Happy New Year! Now you can start knocking out that list of Resolutions! Go to the gym 7 days a week, read 6 books every month, spend more time with your friends, learn to sew and cook and snowboard and speak Mandarin — Wow, that’s a lot of stuff, are you sure you have time for all that? Oh and don’t forget, meet all your work deadlines! Must get a promotion this year! And sleep 8 hours a night! And catch up on West World! Live the life you’ve always dreamed of!
‘A Type’ Personalities tend to correlate perfection and happiness. I know because that’s me. My natural inclination is to do more, learn more, be better at everything, all the time. It’s exhausting. And it’s not just me — look at how crowded the gym is the first week of the New Year. And then it thins out. And those people who are sitting on their couch instead of walking on the treadmill probably feel SO GUILTY (at least the ones like me.) They wanted to work out 7 days a week, and end up working out zero.
I had this poster in high school that said, “If you shoot for the moon, you’ll fall among the stars.” But what’s wrong with just aiming for the stars in the first place?
I’ve learned that it’s way less stressful to aim for ‘Good Enough’ instead of killing yourself to reach Perfection. And occasionally, you’ll probably end up at the moon anyways.
Tale of an ‘A Student’
I was always an A student in school. My mom encouraged me with the most powerful of maternal weapons: disappointment. If I somehow got a B on a test or paper, she would look at me with puppy dog eyes and sigh, “Oh no, what happened?!” It was worse than any punishment she could have doled out.
In college, I remember the first time I received a C on a paper. I ran all the way home, and threw myself under my covers in a fit of tears. I know, dramatic. But that was the perfectionist drive in me. I always strived to be the best. I held myself to high standards, and I believed that was what I needed to stay motivated. If I stopped trying to get an A in class, an A at work, an A in fitness, an A in relationships — well then, obviously I would immediately slip my way down to the dreaded F! And we all know that ‘F’ stands for Failure. FAILURE.
We spend so much time in life avoiding Failure. And this is the point in my story where I learned: If you don’t find Failure first, it’ll usually find you. My 5 year relationship ended. I got fired from my job. I spent the holidays hunched over my laptop to finish a big video project, which made my hands go numb and jump started my still raging back issues. (Scoliosis, woo!) I had run a marathon the year before, yet all my attempts to ‘get back in marathon shape’ continually resulted in injury. Everything sucked.
Except everything didn’t suck. There was so many good things in my life. I started dating my now husband. My best friend moved to Austin. I ran 10Ks and half marathons. I got re-hired at my old job. And when I got laid off there, I got a gig consulting in San Francisco for 6 months. Yet often all I could focus on was the perfection that I was missing. This ‘A Student’ existence that I wanted. I should be faster, I should be smarter, I should be doing more for my career, I should… well, you get the point.
B Student Mentality
At some point during my ‘Why Am I Failing At Everything’ mentality, my husband-to-be said to me: “The amount of effort to get from a B to an A isn’t worth it. You should try being a B student. It’s far less stressful.”
Of course, my initial reaction was, I CAN’T DO THAT.
But then I decided to try it out. Give myself some slack. Aim for slightly better than mediocrity. But mostly, force myself to stomach not being The Best. There will always be someone who gets a 100 on a test when you get a 99. So you can kill yourself studying all night for that 99. Or you can study for a few hours, then go get a beer with your friend. And accept that the 85 you get the next day is enough to pass with room to spare!
Here’s a great visual from The Health Scout blog:
You can kill yourself working 60 hour weeks and going to the gym every day. But you’ll enjoy your life much more by working a 40 hours, running 3 days, and lifting weights 2 days. And guess what? You’ll still be pretty awesome at life. Actually, I would argue you’ll be an A student in happiness!
I challenge you to try out the B Student Mentality. Experiment with different levels of effort in every part of your life.
Aim for the Stars
Here are some quick tips to starting on that B Student Mentality:
- Fail more. Allow mistakes. No, encourage mistakes — that’s how you learn. And like Einstein reportedly said, “If you’ve never failed, you’ve never tried anything new.”
- Celebrate your Good Enoughs! You finished a big project a day late? But the quality is still great and you know what to fix for next time! Forgot your kid’s socccer game? Buy him ‘I’m Sorry’ ice cream and show up next week! You’re As Scarlet O’Hara said, “Tomorrow is another day!”
- Take breaks. Don’t go full speed all the time. That’s how you hit glaciers and sink your ship. Cut yourself some slack. Break your big goals into smaller and smaller goals. Allow yourself to veg out in front of the TV or get dinner with a friend. Which leads me to my next point…
- Do stuff just for fun. ‘A students’ have no time for fun. But B students do! I used to train for running races. And I successfully ran a marathon, a few half marathons, some 10Ks and 5ks. But I injured myself a lot from over-training. Eventually, I decided to focus on enjoying my runs, not pushing myself as hard. The idea of a future race still gets me out the door, but I run at a comfortable speed. And if I miss a day of running, I shrug off the guilt and resolve to run the next day! Not only do I enjoy running again (the reason I started in the first place!), but I am ‘accidentally’ running longer and faster, without really stressing myself to get there. And I mix in other sports just for fun! Now I climb, yoga, and snowboard too! Not running a marathon again, but I’m having way more fun!
- Remember your humanity. Another great bit of advice from my husband. Remember you are just a single human being with physical and mental limitations. You have to eat, sleep, and manage a million different responsibilities and distractions. There’s a limited number of hours in the days, weeks, months, years. Acknowledge and accept that you are not a robot. And anyways — Robots can’t be happy, but humans can! Your weaknesses provide space for happiness.
What do you think?
Are you an A Student? How are you aiming for ‘Good Enough’ instead of ‘The Best’? Do you agree or disagree with the B Student Mentality? Comment below!
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