The Trap of “I Need to Do an Amazing Job”

Devotion to one’s craft is wonderful but obsessing over results is debilitating.

This Is a Trap That’s Easy to Fall Into

I’ve spent much of my life trying to do an amazing job at everything I do. And in many respects, I’ve succeeded. But it’s never been enough. And it’s always been a extra burden of stress for me.

When I was young, I didn’t want to just pass my classes in school, I wanted to do them perfectly. This meant that studying didn’t just take an average amount of time, it meant that it had to take all of the available time.

In business, I did the same. As a photographer, I obsessed over the details, and went above and beyond the extra mile for my clients. And again, it took all of my time.

I Was Always Motivated by Wanting to Look Good

I wanted to look good to my clients, I wanted to look good to my family, I wanted people to be amazed. And basking in their amazement, I hoped I would finally be somebody.

But not only did it not work (which was depressing), it took all my time and all my energy. And a part of me rebelled. A part of me always wanted to get out of my job, or out of my school assignments—to just take time for me.

So I did that too. I lived in an ashram for a decade. And it was good. But even there I tried to be the perfect student of enlightenment. And again the pressure. Again the frustration. The same trap.

It Was Not Until I Did The Work on it that I Found Some Peace

I have questioned many variations of “I need to do an amazing job” in different situations, and what I’ve found is that it is not true. I don’t need to do an amazing job at all. I just need to do an average job. That’s good enough to make a living, to learn new things, to grow spiritually, to keep a balanced life.

In fact, this article is a great example of this for me right now. For some reason, the thoughts are not crystal clear as I’m writing. They’re still just forming. And I notice the impulse to scrap it and start over and keep researching and refining my thoughts before posting this.

But as a result of what I’ve found through inquiry, I am practicing a different approach. And I really love it. The approach of “good enough.” Everything is a work in progress for me now. I don’t need to wow anyone. Things start tiny and sloppy and grow from there. That’s good enough for me.

It’s less and less about pleasing others, and more and more about me just honestly doing what I can at each step and moving on. It’s less about glorious end goals, and more and more about just doing the simple job at hand.

Here Are Some Ideas of How to Do The Work on This

If you have similar perfectionistic tendencies. Here are some ways you can do The Work.

1. Ask yourself, “Who am I trying to please?” in the situation where you are trying to do it perfectly. Then write a Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet on them. For me, it was my mom who used to both expect high grades and praise me when I got them. But she shows up now in other people in different situations.

2. Ask yourself, “Who am I afraid will disapprove?” Again, this leads to a Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet, or some one-liners about that person.

3. Ask yourself, “What am I trying to accomplish?” Write it down, and then question, “I want to accomplish…” I love questioning my motives, and finding more effective and more peaceful action without them.

4. And finally, question, “I need to do an amazing job.” It can be so freeing to question this one.

Have a great week,

“The irony is that the struggle to win love and approval makes it very difficult to experience them. Chronic approval seekers don’t realize that they are loved and supported not because of but despite their efforts. And the more strenuously they seek, the less likely they are to notice.” Byron Katie, I Need Your Love Is That True?

  • Jyoti Kumari says:

    Thank you for writing this, Todd. It means a lot to me. Just like I saved your video so that I could watch it over and over again, I’m going to save this article so that I can read and re-read it as many times I need it to look within because you sure are my mirror 🙂

  • Jill says:

    Todd, I thought we weren’t supposed to do The Work on ourselves. Often (mostly) my situation is about me, but I try to look outside and find something that upsets me because I thought we weren’t supposed to do JYN worksheets on ourselves.

    • todd says:

      The problem with doing The Work on yourself is that it often comes with motives of trying to fix yourself, or trying to get away with things. This bias interferes with The Work. But the more experience you have doing The Work, the more you can question anything because you start to trust the power of truth, and are more interested in that than in trying to fix or trying to be right. Doing The Work on yourself can be a powerful way of accepting yourself and forgiving yourself. Doing The Work on others shows me what I don’t see about myself. I find more unexpected things doing The Work on others. It’s like using a mirror to see myself better. Doing The Work on yourself directly doesn’t allow that. But at the same time if you’re trying to reverse engineer The Work to do it on others when you really just need to do it on yourself, then you can end up feeling like you’re manipulating yourself when you’re doing The Work. So I simply trust my stress: if it comes from outside, I write a Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet, if it comes from self-judgments, I question them directly. For me, it’s a little of both, and I let my stress lead the way.

  • Jill says:

    I have tried doing the reverse engineering thing so as not to do the Work on myself. But it feels convoluted, and trying to find something outside of me that “matches” what I am wanting to question in myself – well, it can be frustrating! Ok I’ve been doing worksheets for about 4 years now, so I guess I can give myself permission to work on I statements. Thanks for the clarification.

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