I am a proud member of the 100% club. That band of women and men who are determined to be the best versions of themselves, every day, in every interaction, in each moment. People who want to leave it all on the field; who want to go the extra mile; who will keep going back to the well.
At work, this doesn’t mean running at 100 mph all the time but on trying to produce the best possible work, exert the maximum possible influence, make the biggest possible difference you can in the time available. It is not about working 24/7, or living and breathing your work (an unhealthily approach – we all need the oxygen of rest, replenishing and recuperation), but it does mean earning your wages; trying your best; doing the greatest good for the greater number.
I have met some perfectionists in my time – I live with one (a particularly wonderful one) – and that is not me. I am not trying my best for the perfect solution or outcome – I am trying to get the best result possible in the circumstances and within healthy boundaries. I am pragmatic; I am able and willing to compromise standards in one battle to try to win the war; but I see every day not just as school day but as an opportunity to make improvements – sometimes marginal, incremental improvements – that will move the organisation, the team, the people I work with a few inches forward. This has always been my approach to work – before my breakdown and after it. This is part of who I am – part of my integrity, my genuine commitment to try to do the right thing and repay the trust that people have put in me.
This is not a self-appreciation society post or a smug pat on the back – it is a warning – a mental health, wellbeing and resilience warning.
This approach – the one I have followed throughout my life – can come at a cost. It can have a price tag. It can hurt. As dear Irish friends of ours are fond of saying, sometimes “shit is your thanks”. Not everyone will see what you are doing; appreciate it; care about it; or care about you. This approach is not a guarantee of respect, support or affection. It can – in some cases led to contempt – as it is said familiarity is prone to do – and can just lead to expectations that you will keep giving your all regardless of the results or the personal costs. Some people will see you going the extra mile and let you do it as it saves them from going just a few yards. Being helpful, perhaps even indispensable, can lead to more and more being piled on your plate without thanks. It can lead to you being overstretched and to mistakes – mistakes that are not excused and shrugged off but used against you and have the standards you have set thrown back in your face – standards you are expected to meet day after day after day regardless of the cost.
So here’s the warning. If you are in the 100% club, do it for you. Do it because it matters to you. Do it because it is you. If you are doing it for others, you may end up disappointed. Feeling undervalued. Feeling that life is too short to give so much for so little in return. Giving it 100% doesn’t always get 100% back. Remember, you don’t give to receive, not even for a thank you. You do it because it is the right thing to do. You do it for your peace of mind.
I have spent over twenty years in many workplaces, successfully delivering consistently good results for organisations and people across all sectors of the economy and parts of the world. My best experiences at work have been when I have been proud of my work and I know it has made a difference but it has also been when those around me have appreciated it; thanked me; respected me; treated me properly.
Lazy, cliche-obsessed sports people often talk of giving it 110%; the X Factor or Britain’s Got Talent judges talk about giving ‘a million percent yes’ to some contestants; the wonderful ‘Thick Of It” writers talk about whether you are an “ameri-can” or an “ameri-can’t”. These labels don’t really matter (or make sense!). The only thing that really matters is you being true to your self; your values; your integrity.
Like all things related to the workplace and your wellbeing/mental health you have to make choices that work for you. Either find a workplace culture that fits with your values or be prepared to ignore the noise and remind yourself that you are doing it for you, not for them. This can be hard. It can be painful. It can leave you feeling empty at times. It can force you to make difficult decisions. But it is the cost of being in the 100% club.
In the end, regardless of the costs I wouldn’t want it any other way. This is who I am and I am proud of it.