Some of the best advice I’ve ever received was “Lower your bar.” At the time, I had just started a new job at a firm I had been targeting for several years. I was convinced that my coworkers were above average, that my management was strong and decisive, and that I was poised for a quick ascent to the top where I would have a long career. The project I was working on was interesting, in the public interest, and high profile. A wise beyond her years coworker noticed the kool-aid I was chugging with abandon, and IM’ed me to “lower your bar.” She was sitting right next to me. That should have been the first clue that my new job was not as perfect in real life as it was in my head. Needless to say, the following year I experienced frustration and disappointment over and over. Had I not had such high expectations for that job, perhaps I’d still work there today.

I am not perfect, but I had expectations of perfection. Expectations of what I could accomplish at work, how work could reward me, how clean my house could be, how exciting my vacations could be, how fast I could run, of everything were sky high. I wore myself out trying to do what I thought needed to be done and was bitterly disappointed when life failed to live up to my expectations.

Lowering the bar from perfection to what can realistically be accomplished was a major paradigm shift for me. I now rebel against the ideal, both in work and life, and focus on the practical and the likely. I’ve found that more and more, people come to me at work when they want to hear how it “really” is. I have been complimented on the way I’m able to give accurate levels of effort on vague requirements and foresee risks that are several months out, simply by recognizing current trends and projecting them out without the expectation of a miracle. Peering over my lowered bar, it is surprising to see people who are so blinded by what they want to see, that they fail to realize what is.

What is the best advice you have been given that has changed the way you approach life?

How do you know when your expectations are out of line with reality, either too high or too low?

 

One Response to Lowering the bar

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