Celebrate Your Achievements and Get Over Your Perfectionism

Many high-achievers reach their goals, only to move on to the next one without pausing to reflect on their accomplishments.  Then they wonder why they do not derive satisfaction from their achievements. Often, the reason stems from perfectionism and the voice of your inner critic.

I hear a lot about perfectionism.  

In my private coaching practice, my high-achieving musician clients are constantly striving to be the best, only to confront the voice of their inner critics which tell them that it’s not enough and that they need to work hard in order to make it “perfect”.  

The same theme emerges in my career workshops.  Whether it is designing an inspiring career plan, managing your time or setting goals, one of the biggest obstacles is perfectionism:  the illusion that if you work hard enough and long enough, the product of your labors will be perfect.  And therein lies the trap:  what is perfection?  It is an illusion and it causes us to jump through a myriad of hoops, only to realize that you can never jump high enough. 

The good news is that there are solutions to this kind of thinking.

One technique that has a lot of resonance among musicians is to celebrate your achievements. When I offer this solution in my workshops or in my private practice, many people are stunned at the simplicity of this idea!  And they ask me why it is so helpful.  So here is why it behooves you to pause every time you hit a big goal.  

First, reaching a big goal is a major accomplishment.  Performing in a recital, winning a commission, getting a grant:  these are all important markers in your career, as well as in your personal growth.  STOP.  This is a big deal.  And allow yourself to acknowledge how wonderful you feel when you have reached a big goal that you set out for yourself.

Second, take some time to think about how you reached that goal.  It represents a lot of hard work and effort.  It also reveals your particular method for doing things.  Know your method or MO.  It is your way of achieving success.  The better you know your MO, the easier it will be the next time you achieve your goal.  Not only is this a wonderful personal development tool but it is also a great time saver because you do not have to reinvent the wheel!

Third, what did you learn from the experience?  Achieving a goal is a fabulous learning opportunity.  What worked?  Keep doing that!  And what could have been improved?  Using your experience, you will know what to do next time to make it even better.

Sharing from my personal experience, I recently was able to use this technique to quell some residual perfectionism around my own performing.  I played and performed a very difficult piece of music, something that I had always wanted to play and never thought I could.  With the encouragement of my piano teacher, I learned the piece.  I even mastered it.  And I performed it!  The performance was an amazing experience for me—until the end when I did not play 2 measure in the finale exactly how I wanted to do it.  I initially felt a huge sense of disappointment because the piece was not “perfect.”  Whoops!  That’s code for the downward spiral that can occur if you let yourself get trapped by the illusion of perfectionism.  

So the next day, I took a few moments to journal about the experience.  

1. The fact that I learned and performed this piece felt AMAZING.

2. I reflected on how I learned the piece and what it took for me to perform it.  This is huge since until a few years ago, I could not perform in public.  

3. The 2-meaures that I thought I blew?  No one in the audience seemed to mind.  And maybe I just needed a bit more practice time to nail the passage.  My piano teacher suggested breathing through it.  So that’s what I will do next time.

And I assure you that after doing that reflective thinking, I felt a lot better about my performance and about myself.  My inner critic’s voice quickly faded away!

If you take the time to reflect on your achievements, you can banish the voice of that inner critic.  You now have evidence that you really are good enough because you achieved something important, you feel great about it, you know how you did it and you know what you can do next time to make it even better.

Successful people know what works for them and learn from their experiences.  Indeed, this is one of the hallmarks of a successful music entrepreneur. 

So the next time your inner critic tells you that you are not good enough, pause and celebrate your accomplishments.  It really works!

© Astrid Baumgardner 2011