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You're Not Being Graded

Most of us spend at least 13 years in school from Kindergarten to senior year. Many of us spend quite a few more. Starting in pre-school through graduating from law school, I spent 22 years in school. On the day of my law school graduation, I was three months shy of 25. In other words, I'd been in school for 88% of my life.

Since then, I took bar review class to study for the bar exam, earned a certification in healthcare compliance and became a certified life coach tacking on another two years of school. So even all of these years later, two weeks away from turning 41, I've spent 59% of my life in school.

Many of you have also spent half to two-thirds of your life in school.

Which is why it's no surprise that we think our lives are being graded.

We're even inundated with "grades" on social media and pop culture as a joke.

I coached a client last week who told me she feels like invisible people are watching her work and giving her a grade on how she does. Which, of course, makes it harder for her to work and adds tons of unnecessary stress to her day.

We hold ourselves to standards set by other people- experts, teachers, the ubiquitous "they" instead of trusting ourselves.

My client is now asking herself, "would I do this if I wasn't being graded?" before she does anything. She's learning to listen to herself, work when she has something to do and rest or have fun when she doesn't. She told me yesterday she's producing just as much as you was before while also feeling more relaxed and having more time for things outside of work.

Even if there are some aspects of your life where you get feedback such as a performance review, it's still not a grade. Go ahead and read that again. A performance review or anything along those lines isn't a grade. It's just someone else's opinion of one part of your life. You get to choose what to take from it.

When we're in school there are standardized tests with objectively correct answers. Even when grading is more subjective there are rubrics and set expectations. On top of that there are clear parameters of what activities make up your grade- homework, tests, attendance, etc.

That stops being true once we leave school and enter the world.

There are basic moral, legal and societal expectations but no uniform standards or requirements to pass.

I spent six years of my legal career as a public speaker and instructor. I traveled around the country speaking at conferences, training clients and teaching courses. Part of that job involved being evaluated by bosses and through post-event surveys.

Meaning I got a lot of feedback. At first, I treated it like a grade. If everyone who attended didn't think it was the best class they'd ever attended and that I was a fabulous instructor, I thought I'd failed. Over time as I gained more experience receiving feedback and being evaluated, my perspective shifted.

I started seeing myself not as a student being graded, but as an expert in my field doing my job. Which meant I didn't view the evaluations as my grade, but as data to help me be the best advisor, speaker and instructor I could be.

To do that, I used that data and asked myself these three questions:

  1. Do I agree with it?

  2. What can I learn from it?

  3. Do I want to make any changes based on it?

The difference between data and a grade is a grade is final and data is just a starting point.

When you believe you're being graded, you also start to treat everything in your past as the final decree on that subject. Instead start looking at feedback as well as your own decisions and circumstances as data. Do you like and agree with where you are? What can you learn? Do you want to make changes?

That opens the possibility of what's next instead of convincing yourself it's too late.


What do you get when you work with a life coach? ✨A judgment- free space devoted to you and your goals. ✨Strategies for creating and getting the life you want. ✨Honest, objective perspective on what's keeping you stuck. ✨The opportunity to make decisions based on possibility not discontent.

I’m a certified life coach helping women do the things they think they can't and see opportunities instead of obstacles. I have one on one coaching spots available.


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