By Sunny Simon
While lunching with my friend Carrie, she mentioned her 25 year old daughter’s obsession with career mobility. Lola rose through the ranks at breakneck speed and is currently director of marketing at a tech firm in Silicon Valley. From Carrie’s perspective, once her daughter reaches the peak of a mountain she scaled, rather than stopping to enjoy the view she manically plans her next move.
Often people who struggle with career perfectionism experience severe anxiety. Wanting it all, wanting it now and wanting it perfect is undeniably beyond the pale. Yes, achievement is part of the American Dream but obsession is dangerous. Denying ourselves a period to take a pause and appreciate our triumphs leads to the vicious cycle of “not good enough.”
Rigid adherence to lofty standards also leads to the life of a workaholic. It’s possible Lola spends most of her waking hours at the office striving to create the perfect work product. Other areas of her life, including important relationships, suffer.
Anyone who lives in the real world knows there is no such thing as perfect. Those of us who continually strive for nirvana must learn to settle for good enough. Perfectionists, like Lola, should eliminate “black and white thinking.” You know, the thought that anything south of perfection is failure. Operating on the assumption anything less than 100% sets us up for disappointment and anguish.
It’s helpful for Lola to learn the art of the compromise and become more flexible. Chances are she holds her team to unrealistic standards causing poor morale and fear. Let’s consider failure for a moment. Fear of making a mistake blurs the path to innovation. Wayne Gretzky nailed it when he said, “Your will miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” If Lola does not ease up, she runs the risk of driving away good people. Under undue pressure her subordinates will soon start polishing up their resumes.
Change is difficult for all of us. Often the best method is baby steps. Lola should ease into lowering her standards one step at a time.
Another strategy for Lola is to begin making a list of all the things she likes about her job, her team and the company’s mission. She might even plan a celebration to share and savor achieving a current milestone.
If you are struggling with perfectionism in your career, or any area of your life, map out some changes today. I promise you will enjoy life more and so will the people around you. Sunny Simon is the owner of Raise the Bar High Life and Career Coaching. More about Sunny at www.raisethebarhigh.com