Updated: Nov 4, 2022
Q : I get anxious when I have to take on a new project at work; I have high standards for myself and want to make a good impression. How can I lessen the anxiety?
A : I’m sorry to hear you are experiencing some anxiety and, based on what you shared, I believe you might have some perfectionism going on. You are not alone; studies show anxiety due to perfectionism is an all to common occurrence in today’s workplace.
Wanting something to be “perfect” right out the gate is an immense amount of pressure people are putting themselves under. Their expectations are way too high too soon.
Heidi Grant Halvorson, who holds a PhD from Columbia University, conducted a brilliant study on the importance of how we approach our goals and its impact on how we perform.
She writes: We approach most of what we do with one of two types of goals; “be-good” goals, where the focus is on proving that you have a lot of ability and already know what you’re doing, and “get-better” goals, where the focus is on developing your ability and learning a new skill.
It’s the difference between wanting to show that you are smart vs. wanting to get smarter.
The problem with “be-good” goals is that they tend to backfire when things get hard.
We start doubting our ability and this creates anxiety.
Ironically, worrying about your ability makes you more likely to fail. Countless studies have shown that nothing interferes with your performance like anxiety does.
“Get-better” goals, on the other hand, are practically bulletproof.
When we think about what we are doing in terms of learning and improving, accepting that we may make some mistakes along the way, we stay motivated despite the setbacks that might occur.
My advice to you is to look at how you are approaching your new projects and start creating “get-better” goals around them.