The Perfectionism Trap—And How to Escape It

Perfectionism is a big problem today among ambitious professionals—and increasingly among young people in general. It’s also widely misunderstood, and even misappropriated as a badge of honor by some. Let’s break it down. First, what is it? Perfectionism entails striving to be flawless. It typically includes overly critical self-evaluations and excessive concerns about negative evaluations from others. Perfectionism entails striving for unrealistic or even unattainable goals, followed by disappointment when we fail to achieve them. That’s followed by cognitive dissonance from misalignment between perfect self-identity and imperfect performance. For a perfectionist, low performance automatically means low self-worth. Fundamentally, the assumption

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Are You Living a Divided Life?

The young woman in a corporate job whose true love is animals. Unless she makes a change, she’s looking at a long slog in her career. A young college graduate on the business track who discovers he has no real interest in any of the business functions. He’s fascinated by medicine but feels trapped because of the costs of switching over. The frustrated executive in a family business, itching to get out and be creative, entrepreneurial, impactful, and generous. What will he do? Many of us are leading what author and educator Parker Palmer calls a “divided life”—a life in

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Why Is Happiness So Elusive?

(This article is part of a series on happiness. See the end of the article for more articles in the series.) We want to be happy. To live well. And enjoy life. We have our moments, and if we’re fortunate some long stretches of happiness. But it’s harder than it sounds. There are struggles. Highs and lows. And not just because of the swirling vortex of challenges around us, from the pandemic to a depressing news cycle, with endless waves of shocks and worries. No, it’s not just that. (As if that weren’t enough.) In our day-to-day experience and its

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The Surprising Relationship between Success and Happiness

Many people believe in the logic: When I’m successful, I’ll be happy. Sounds reasonable. After all, professional success will bring a sense of accomplishment and status. Nice. It tends to come with higher income and more wealth. So it’s likely to make us happy. The logic is sound. But wrong. Not only wrong, but backwards. According to an extensive review by researchers over many years, it works the other way around: When I’m happy, I’m more likely to be successful. Researchers Lisa Walsh, Julia Boehm, and Sonja Lyubomirsky did a massive investigation of the potential relationship between career success and

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The Most Common Myths about Happiness

Happiness is a universal aspiration. We all want happiness, including a sense of wellbeing and overall life satisfaction. Here’s the problem: we’re bad at knowing what will actually bring us happiness. There are many happiness myths that get in the way. Here are 14 of the most common happiness myths—and their corresponding realities.   Myth: Happiness is the goal of life—the be-all and end-all of human existence. Many of us view happiness as the point of life. Understandable. But flawed. Having happiness as our goal in life is destined to disappoint. A better goal, I believe, is to live a

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The Most Important Contributor to Happiness

In our search for happiness and its close cousins, well-being and life satisfaction, we’ve seen that it’s complex. In a previous post, we noted 20 research-based practices that lead to happiness. What’s the biggest contributor to happiness? Relationships.   Happiness and Relationships “No man is an island.” -John Donne Connecting with others gives us a sense of worth, meaning, and belonging. When we’re in close relationship with others, we’re more likely to receive support when we need it most. And to provide it when others need it. According to many researchers, strong social relationships are the most important contributor to enduring

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What Leads to Happiness?

What leads to happiness? We all want to be happy—and for those we care about to be happy. Here’s the problem: we’re unclear and often badly mistaken about what will bring us happiness. We’re inundated with messages from family, friends, ads, and social media about what will make us happy. Most of these messages are wrong. The result: What we think will make us happy is different from what actually makes us happy.   What Is Happiness? To understand what’s going on here, we should back up and clarify what we’re talking about. What is happiness? Turns out it’s not

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Why Happiness Is the Wrong Goal

Let’s face it. We’re obsessed with happiness: Am I happy? I just want to be happy. I want my kids to be happy. Why doesn’t my job make me happy? Why doesn’t my relationship make me happy? We tend to view happiness as the point of life. Sounds reasonable. But it turns out to be counterproductive. Happiness is the wrong goal. To understand why and how, let’s back up and examine what we’re talking about. There are many ways to think about happiness. We often think of it as feeling contentment or pleasure. But there’s more to it. An excellent

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The Great Re-Evaluation

The pandemic has called the question about our work—about how it fits into what we want in our lives. It’s made millions of us stop, look around, and wonder. Enter “the Great Resignation.” In September, 4.4 million Americans (about 2.9% of the national workforce) left their jobs, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. In August, it was 4.3 million. About 4 million in July. (In September 2020, the number was about 3.3 million.) According to research from Visier, the annualized resignation rate is about 25 percent. According to a Microsoft survey of more than 30,000 workers around the world,

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Breaking the “Trance of Unworthiness”

Many of us are walking around in a “trance of unworthiness.” It’s a gnawing feeling that we’re deeply flawed. It tells us we’re not worthy of love, happiness, success, or approval. And it follows us around like a shadow. When I first encountered this provocative term from psychologist and author Tara Brach, it felt like a revelation to me, because I’ve seen it in so many of my colleagues, clients, and students. And because I’ve felt it at times too. Brach describes it as “fear or shame—a feeling of being flawed, unacceptable, not enough. Who I am is not okay.”

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Getting Good at Overcoming Fear

Fear. A terrible feeling. Something to avoid. Right? Not so fast. Fear can actually be turned into a powerful asset and opportunity, if understood and addressed properly. Can we get good at overcoming fear? First, what is it? Fear is a feeling of distress or dread caused by a sense of impending danger or pain. It’s a powerful, primitive emotion. A warning that we need to pay attention. We need fear to survive, and it has served us well through the ages. But it can also be one of the biggest obstacles in our lives. We can go through our

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Burnout and the Great Resignation

Burnout has been a big problem for millions of people for a long time now. And it’s getting worse. Burnout is also affecting more young people. And the pandemic, with all the extra stressors and pressures it’s brought to so many, is aggravating the burnout problem. These are major ingredients of the “great resignation.” What is burnout? According to the Mayo Clinic, job burnout is “a special type of work-related stress—a state of physical or emotional exhaustion that also involves a sense of reduced accomplishment and loss of personal identity.” When we’re burned out, we feel run-down and exhausted or empty.

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Beware the Disease of More

More isn’t always better. Let that sink in. More ≠ better. Yet our brains fool us into thinking that it is. It’s an unconscious assumption, deep in our brains, that’s nearly impossible to shake. It’s the idea that if we get more of the things we think we want, we’ll be happier. But it’s a lie. More what? More of pretty much everything: Success. Money. Status. Skills. Achievements. Victories. Conquests. Beauty. Followers. Honors. Devices. Shoes. Goals. Projects. More whatever. You name it. The disease or more. We’re seduced by the possibility of the next thing. Seduced by the chase. Here’s

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two hands in golden handcuffs

Golden Handcuffs: Stuck in a Job You Don’t Like?

Stuck in a job you don’t like? Enduring it? Too often, we do it for the money, the security, or the prestige, but not for its intrinsic value. We stick it out, trapped by golden handcuffs. Golden handcuffs are financial incentives designed to keep workers at an organization. We may long to leave a job and set out on a new adventure, but the thought of giving up the salary, bonus, or other perks makes us stay. It helps to view it from our own perspective. Sometimes we place the golden handcuffs on ourselves. They can come in the form

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success trap--man on a hamster wheel

Are You Trapped by Success?

Are you trapped by success? It’s an odd question. How can success be a trap? Is that even possible? Turns out it can be a big trap. Below are 15 quick ways.   1. Addicted to Success In a culture that worships success, we can become obsessed by it. It can consume most of our waking hours, and most of our waking thoughts. It can become a compulsive drive. We can build our lives around the pursuit of success. But what is success, actually? Have we taken the time to define what it means for us, in our current chapter

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