Thursday, October 20, 2011


Are my standards too high?

(No, this is not a post about guys or dating, in case you were wondering)

I do not know if I would describe myself as a perfectionist.  I actually don't think I would.  I work really hard, but there are some days and experiences when I'm not aiming for perfect.  But I am constantly aiming for my best.

It's funny when you compare standards:
1/3 is phenomenal for a batting average
52% can win you a presidential election
...that would also be a decent approval rating
In high school music competitions, only people who score 99 or 100 will be accepted into their All-State organizations
Only a near perfect SAT score will get you into an Ivy League school
You want your surgeon to have a close-to-zero mortality rate, right?

Obviously, it is not just about the numbers, and you can't go across the board and say what is "acceptable," "good," "excellent,"and "superb."

But I think my standards may be too high.  I have a week to go before the written part of my PhD comps, which will be next Thursday and Friday.  I have been preparing for months: doing the reading, writing, synthesizing, talking about it to anyone who will listen.  On Monday, I woke up in the middle of the night with a nightmare about the exam. I don't remember it now, but I couldn't get my mind to calm down for a while.  And it led to two days straight of just nerves and worrying.  I think part of the mental challenge is dealing with the fact that this is the culmination of years of work.  Another part of it is knowing that I have over 100 books and articles shuffling around my brain, clamoring to be remembered.  And it made for a rough couple of days.  I didn't quite hit my track workout on Tuesday either, which I attributed to the race and comps.

On Wednesday, I met with a friend of mine who is in the program and took his comps last year.  I asked if he would ask me a few questions, so I could practice discussing some answers.  And, over an hour later, I had hit a number of topics.  And I didn't struggle for ideas: I spoke freely and was able to draw from a number of different books.

It was a big relief.  And today I did some good reading and clarified some information about some medieval church councils, which was really helpful.  And all of that worrying lessened - it didn't go away, but it lessened, at least for a little bit.

A lot of this has made me think my standards can be really really high, maybe even unreasonable at times.  I expect to commit this stuff to memory, and I expect to be successful in running.  Consistently.  And maybe that is the issue - I want to be consistent, and when I have an off day, I am disappointed.  I am sure that I am not alone with this - I am writing to a community of go-getters!

And now, with just over a week to go, I am getting my head on straight.  I am pouring over my notes, putting it all together, and hoping that even if I set my standards really high, I will meet them.

Game on!

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