Lately I’ve been thinking about the way in which I want to show up in the world, and not only what I want to accomplish.

The other night, after a particularly grueling day, I texted a friend.

“I’m at 50 percent tonight. What are you?”

The idea of taking stock of your “person-ness” with a percentage isn’t mine. Author and researcher Brené Brown spoke about it as a guest on Michael Gervais’ podcast (and she might have written about it too, I’m not sure.) 

Brené explained that the idea originated with the adage of a successful marriage requiring each person to meet the other halfway. 

But her interpretation is a little different. She and her husband take stock of how much they have to give on a regular basis. The hope is that when one has less than their half to contribute, the other person can compensate with more. For example, if one person is at 20 percent, ideally the partner can come up with 80. On the days when they’re both running at a deficit, Brené said they practice extra patience and kindness to make up for the gap.

What a great model!

I love the idea of percentages as a communication tool in any kind of partnership. It’s like shorthand for a bunch of complex human phenomena all smooshed into a number. Sure, a percentage is not the whole story, but it’s a swift way to get to its core.

I love thinking about percentages as a personal gauge too, because sometimes we forget to let ourselves in on the secret of how we’re doing. I am prone to this. My nature is to “power through,” hoping that by exerting more effort, I’ll make up the difference? (Hmmm. Interesting math.)

Back to my story. There I was, falling asleep on the couch, when it popped into my mind that I felt like a low 50 percent. Not a tired 50 percent, but a defeated one.

“50 percent is a lot of work,” my friend wrote me the next morning. “Harder to keep your head above water and put on a game face. We hide that we’re running at a reduction and that makes it tough, too.” 

Yes, I thought. Hallelujah, someone gets it. 

The thing is, how we show up on the days when we’re running low is what sets us apart. And it isn’t about blaming. It isn’t denial. It isn’t getting stuck in shame for being human. It’s acceptance and awareness that some days life will beat the shit out of you.

Just to be clear, life will beat the shit out of you. None of us get to have a meaningful one without wrestling with hard stuff. 

Truth be told, part of me relishes the 50 percent days because I’m a risk-taker and I love to learn. The story I tell myself is that to feel depleted is evidence I’ve left everything on the field. (Yep, I agree. That deserves some further examination.)

And I hate the 50 percent days, too. It’s uncomfortable to feel spent but still have a ways to go, whether the task is cleaning the house or tending to relationships. I don’t like when life feels scary or threatening, or when I doubt that I am enough, or when I can’t find the way forward.

I determined to get to the bottom of the why of this particular 50 percent day. (BTDubs, I don’t think “why” is always the right question, but in this case, I was curious and went with my intuition.)

I curled up in my chair in the sunshine with a cup of coffee. I wanted to get granular and reflective. And yet . . . even though I practice and lead and coach this work, it took a while to understand what was going on. 

As I did, tears began streaming down my face. I realized I was facing some messy circumstances that were testing my ability to live my values of clarity and kindness. I was letting myself down by “playing nice.” In fact, it was time for me to think about my contribution to the problem. 

And it was time for me to have some difficult conversations, starting with the one with myself

“All of the work of resilience and finding strength and calm – that all happens at the 50 percent,” my friend continued in his text. “That’s where our work is.”

Yes, I thought again. It’s not about avoiding the 50 percent days, but skillfully meeting them. We’ve got some choices to make in how we respond.

It was such a relief to have the language around what I was experiencing that morning, and to have someone share with me that they could relate. It all helped me create some momentum in the right direction.

I was still at 50 percent but I could begin to course correct. The mastery, I think, lies in developing a more mindful process, and learning to go with the flow.

More of that, please.

About Me

I’m Stephanie. I’m a writer, coach, and facilitator. I work with individuals, teams and leaders in creative, entrepreneurial, and nonprofit fields to improve communication, find a true purpose, and deepen connection and meaning. If you enjoyed this post, share it with a friend! And I’d love it if you would subscribe to my email list, below.