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Human over perfect wins every time

20 July 2020 at 8:19 am
Clare Desira
This week, mindset coach Clare Desira talks about when our stress levels are at a crossroads and asks you to think about what your team's "go to" coping strategy is in these moments.

Clare Desira | 20 July 2020 at 8:19 am


Human over perfect wins every time
20 July 2020 at 8:19 am

This week, mindset coach Clare Desira talks about when our stress levels are at a crossroads and asks you to think about what your team’s “go to” coping strategy is in these moments.

Picture this. 

It was make or break. 

It was the evening before one of the biggest opportunities for Top Five. 

I was going to be front and centre at the Employer of Choice Breakfast with the 80 best employers of their industry. 

Not only that, but the state government was also endorsing my work as “an organisation that can truly build supportive, productive and mentally healthy workplaces”, and one of my clients was going to be sharing how our work supported them through a tricky merge.

An opportunity like this is the stuff dreams are made of.

So, I arrived at the hotel with five minutes to get ready before dinner with the state government program director. Time to change out of casual jeans and runners and into something more professional, and… f*** I’d left my suit bag on the plane.  

I had nothing to wear that night or for the main event the following day except for the jeans and runners I was standing in.

My stress levels were at a crossroads. 



When faced with stressful situations, our stress vices have evolved over the years to include booze, chocolate, Netflix and the old classic, critical self-talk.

My vice of choice, like for so many other women, is critical self-talk.

The younger me would’ve fallen into a tirade of statements like: 

“I’m so hopeless and stupid!”

“How could I have done this?” 

“No one is going to take me or my work seriously.”

And those self critical thoughts would have hijacked my night and turned me into a stiff cocktail of overly professional with a twist of apologetic, hot mess, and losing myself in trying to prove I could be taken seriously.

And it had nothing to do with the jeans and runners. 

Left unchecked, these thoughts can spiral to become far bigger than any small issue. Our brains love to dive into the stories of past mistakes that create a solid case that those critical thoughts are the only truth. But they’re not.

Research shows that critical self-talk is a default for many women when they’re under stress.  

Back in my hotel room, I flipped the self-critical script on its head and made the most of the opportunity.

The program director arrived for dinner, laughed at my story and said “let’s drive out to the airport and try our luck”. On the way, instead of getting lost in a sea of hopelessness and apologies, we shared fond travel memories of how things go wrong but become part of the adventure. Lost passports in Turkey, missed planes in Peru and lizards mistaken for Tsunami alarms in the night in Thailand…

It was real and human and an adventure. Not stiff, professional and forced small-talk while I quietly shamed myself for making such a careless mistake.   

This isolation time has been a priceless experience in humanising things. Kids are zooming through the background of Zoom calls. People are acknowledging how messy life is when parts we usually keep separate overlap in a heap.  

I hope we keep the value of being human over perfect.  

The truth is that folks in any team will take turns to make mistakes. We all face the stress crossroads sometimes. Our thoughts about these mistakes have a significant impact on cultures and how we show up. 

Having the tools to short circuit the wild thought loops of hopelessness and self-criticism means that we don’t miss life as it happens.

(Oh, and one more thing… Michael from the QANTAS desk if you’re reading this, sorry about the security scare and that very physical and enthusiastic hug… I just saw my suit bag hanging behind you and couldn’t help but start running towards you.)   


Clare Desira heads up the Top Five Movement, a resilience and mindset training organisation, which draws on neuroscience to support changemakers and leaders in generous careers to have a bigger impact. 

This video is part of a series exploring how the brain works and tools to tackle common mindset blockers during career change.

For more resources and information head over to

Clare Desira  |  @ProBonoNews

Clare Desira is CEO of the Top Five Movement, an award winning resilience and mindset training organisation that has supported thousands of people across 40 countries.

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