The Job of Your Life with Karen Schaffer

Get out of your rut and find your passion

Posts Tagged ‘perfectionism’

Aiming for Perfection in your Career Exploration

Posted by Karen on January 25, 2009

Kelly asked if I could comment on perfectionism and how it relates to careers. In my work, I’ve seen how perfectionism can deeply impact not only the outcome of a career exploration, but also the quality and enjoyment of the process.

Let’s define perfectionism first.

For the purposes of this blog and this topic, we’ll talk about perfectionism in a couple of ways. First of all, it’s an internal measuring bar. We all hold ourselves to a set of standards, whether we are consciously aware of what those standards are or not.  Some people have much higher personal standards than others. Those standards can be so high in fact that they are nearly impossible to attain, but you will still feel like that’s the level of achievement needed to be reached for the action to be a success.

That’s a lot of words…I feel like I could write forever to try and attain the perfect definition (see…right there). Luckily my son demonstrated it for me this afternoon.

At three years old he likes hiding under things.

Today we made a “tent” with a blanket over his small table. Well, not content to play under there, he got whiny and demanding, asking us over and over to help re-set the blanket. He kept asking us to “make it dark”. Mark and I got frustrated; nothing we did made it dark enough. Meanwhile, instead of enjoying his little tent, he was upset it didn’t meet some idea he had about how the tent should be. He didn’t enjoy himself, he upset everyone around him and all the fun went out of the game.

Sound familiar?

You know you are bringing perfectionism into your career exploration if you’re sucking all the life and fun out of the process by demanding it to look a certain way. Lots of us do this…I promise you that you’re not alone. We have some unattainable idea of how fast it should go, what progress should look like, what exactly we should be focusing on and how we will “know” the right answer. And in the end we just end up like whiny three year olds who cry a lot and topple over the whole table because we’re so frustrated we can’t make it happen the way we think it should go. That’s when it gets easy to think we’re stuck or  stupid or lost.

None of those are true. We just hit an inner road block when our expectations came up against the true nature of the (mostly creative, mostly non-linear) career exploration process.

So that’s what perfection in career exploration looks/feels like. Next we can discuss ways to break through this state. One of the first ways is by becoming conscious of what you expect from yourself in the process.

How does the need for perfection impact your career exploration? What high standards have you set for yourself?

In the meantime, stop trying to make it so dark!

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