Present, Not Perfect

I recently had the privilege of presenting a keynote at a conference for women in finance. Attendees had titles ranging from CFO all the way to accounts payable. It was a brilliant event with many insights and perspectives. As is common across the board when working with driven, successful people, the subject of balance was a hot topic of discussion.

One of the most meaningful parts of the conference for me was the theme they had chosen: “Present, Not Perfect.”

Most of us can relate to the intense pressure we have to juggle all of the many things we’re responsible for. This pressure shows up in the moment as we manage 10 projects and 50 tasks, and it also shows up in the bigger picture as we work to balance our career, family, health, relationships, etc. The list goes on.

Too often we strive for perfection, which—let’s be honest—isn’t even a real thing! With this vision of perfection in our mind, we fall short, leaving ourselves feeling demoralized and dejected. This is why I loved the theme “Present, Not Perfect.”

An inspiring alternative to being perfect is to focus on the now. Being present so that you can really engage in what you’re doing means you can really show up to the various roles in your life.

I have three suggestions from my book The 5 Choices: The Path to Extraordinary Productivity on how you can work to be present, not perfect.

1. Act on the Important, Don’t React to the Urgent

In many ways, the world is manic. There’s an increase in the number of touchpoints, tasks, inputs, pings, and dings. And that’s not changing. The number of things each person is confronted with is increasing. Within that flood of information, if we can’t identify what’s really important to us, we will just be battling a constant onslaught of things coming at us.

Be deliberate in identifying what’s important versus what’s urgent. Important things will get you closer to what you want—to who you want to be. You can’t possibly expect to manage your time to the things that really matter unless you know what those things are. Spend some time today reflecting on how you spend your time. Are you into the important things, or are you into urgency?

2. Go for Extraordinary, Don’t Settle for Ordinary

Next, let’s examine the many roles we play in our life, and how we balance all of the expectations. We each may have dozens of roles (professional, partner, caregiver, athlete, volunteer, etc.). Within these many roles, there are some roles that simply matter more to you. There are roles you don’t want to be ordinary in!

Once identified, take fifteen or twenty minutes to imagine what extraordinary looks like in each of those critical roles. If you don’t have a vision of what it looks like to go beyond the ordinary, then you’ll likely default to the standard you set: ordinary. You can’t hit a bull’s eye if there’s no target.

3. Schedule the Big Rocks; Don’t Sort Gravel

Okay, you’ve got the vision of who you want to be. Now we have to do that simple thing called “executing on vision.” Well, this is simple to say, not so easy to do. Fortunately, the process for executing on individual vision or goals is simple. It’s taking time to reflect and plan your time around the priorities.

This is most effectively done through the process of weekly planning. Now, lots of people say, “I already plan things.” And they do—they look at their calendar at what they need to do that week. And that’s their planning. However, if you’re going to be the person you’ve envisioned for yourself, the planning has to define the week, not review it. You must decide exactly how, in this finite amount of time, you’re going to take a step toward that vision of yourself. This is called “scheduling the Big Rocks,” and it helps you avoid sorting the little things in life.

Say to yourself, “As a mom/vice president/coach, what’s the one thing I can do this week that gets me closer to that vision I’ve created?” Then put that one thing in your calendar. Yes, actually schedule a meeting to become who you want to be. And when your calendar reminder goes off? Stop what you’re doing and engage in that activity fully. Be present.

These three actions take some time and introspection, but when they are implemented, they can help you balance your roles and achieve the extraordinary results you’re capable of.

Life is not about being perfect! It’s about being present.

Learn more about the 5 Choices, including the other two choices to becoming extraordinary: “Rule Your Technology, Don’t Let It Rule You,” and “Fuel Your Fire, Don’t Burn Out.”


Invest your time, attention, and energy on your highest priorities. Register to attend a complimentary 5 Choices to Extraordinary Productivity webcast to learn how.

About the Author

Leena Rinne

Leena Rinne is FranklinCovey's Vice President of Consulting. She is responsible for the management and development of the consultant team and the ongoing world class delivery of FranklinCovey programs and solutions. Leena is co-author of the Wall Street Journal bestselling book, The 5 Choices: The Path to Extraordinary Productivity, and also co-authored the forthcoming book, Leading Customer Loyalty: Cracking the Code to Customer Devotion. Currently in her 14th year with FranklinCovey, Leena’s passion lies in supporting client to develop great leaders and create winning cultures.

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