Forget being perfect ‒ strive to be better than you were yesterday.
To err is human … but try telling that to a perfectionist. If you approach your every working day with the expectation that everything will go swimmingly, you're setting yourself up for a fall. There are plenty of minute mistakes you might make. From unsent emails to forgotten tasks, the possible potholes in your road to success are endless.
However, whilst you're out there chasing perfection in your career, you could be doing yourself a disservice. Having unreasonably high standards could actually lead to more problems than it solves. With that in mind, let's take a look at why it's OK to make mistakes at work and how you can avoid letting them hold you back.
Understand that nobody's perfect
First, let's deal with the facts: Nobody out there is perfect. That's the truth of the matter. While you may strive to do your best in the workplace (and so you should), you mustn't beat yourself up when things don't go to plan. Whether you slip up or simply fail to excel in a certain project, you have to go easy on yourself. Continuously being your own worst critic will only lead to unnecessary emotional distress. Make sure to practice a little self-kindness.
Quit comparing yourself to someone else
It's a dog-eat-dog professional world. When you're at work, comparing yourself to your co-workers and even your managers may feel natural; these people around you are your competition, right? Wrong. You're on your own journey, and you need to keep that in mind at every turn. Comparing yourself to others is a dangerous game to play.
While those around you may appear perfect, each person has their own professional struggles too. You don't know their full story, and so you can't compare your life to theirs. Instead, the only person you should compare yourself to is yourself. How have you improved professionally in recent years and where do you aim to be in the future? That's a productive way of thinking.
Avoid unnecessary stress
Striving for perfection may seem noble, but if it's causing you endless stress, it's an unhealthy obsession. Work-related stress can quickly lead to burnout. Should you find that you're irritable, overwhelmed or anxious, you may be suffering from this problem.
In short, putting yourself under stress can literally make you both mentally and physically ill. You may experience racing thoughts, constant worrying, headaches, sleep problems and more. You should take measures to avoid this issue. Allow yourself some wriggle room when it comes to your performance at work. It might be the smartest step you take.
Don't fall into the trap of catastrophising
Let's say you make a mistake at work in a crucial meeting ‒ you forget to bring your notes with you, so when a client asks for your input, you're flummoxed. The moment you walk out the door, your troubled brain begins working overtime.
You start worrying that your manager and colleagues are angry at you ‒ that their silence in the lift just now was evidence of that. Next, you panic that this small error will ruin your reputation and work against you when your appraisal comes around. Worse still, you imagine that this is the final black mark on your record and it's sure to get you fired.
When you get stuck in this mental minefield, it's known as catastrophising. Rather than looking at the evidence in front of you and seeing it for what it is, you're leaping to the worst conclusions. Put simply, you're making a mountain out of a molehill. Should you catch yourself doing this, you need to take a step back and reassess the situation.
Set attainable goals (and then reward yourself for achieving them)
In a busy work environment, your manager may not always have the time to congratulate you on a job well done. That's OK. However, many of us find it hard to feel confident when we don't have evidence that we're on the right track. One of the ways you can solve this problem is by setting your own goals and rewarding yourself when you meet them.
For example, you could make a list of the short-term and long-term tasks you have to do. When you have crossed 10 items off your list, have a reward already in mind. By recognising these small wins and their significance, you can stop focussing on perfection. Instead, your mindset will be geared towards achieving what you can in the time you have.
Learn and grow when you made a mistake at work
Once you've put things back into perspective, it's time to put an action plan in place for the future. It's perfectly fine to make mistakes now and then, but you should always learn from them. Moving forward, what can you do to ensure that you avoid this particular situation? Are there steps you can take to help you prepare better in the future?
Using mistakes as an opportunity to learn and grow will help you get over them. You don't have to (and shouldn't!) strive for perfection, but you can strive to be better than you were yesterday. Take things one step at a time and commend yourself for being on the right track.
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