We typically aim for a particular career because we have been deeply impressed by the exploits of the most accomplished practitioners in the field.
We formulate our ambitions by admiring the beautiful structures of the architect tasked with designing the city’s new airport,
or by following the intrepid trades of the wealthiest Wall Street fund manager,
by reading the analyses of the acclaimed literary novelist or sampling the piquant meals in the restaurant of a prize-winning chef.
We form our career plans on the basis of perfection.
Then, inspired by the masters, we take our own first steps and the trouble begins.
What we have managed to design, or make in our first month of trading, or write in an early short story,
or cook for the family is markedly and absurdly, beneath the standard that first sparked our ambitions.
We who are so aware of excellence end up the least able to tolerate mediocrity – which in this case, happens to be our own.
We become stuck in an uncomfortable paradox: our ambitions have been ignited by greatness, but everything we know of ourselves points to congenital ineptitude.
We have fallen into what we can term the Perfectionist Trap,