There are various roles in which we participate in that will require avoiding mistakes at all costs. Whether in the operating room as a surgeon, the financial sector for investment banking, transportation profession for moving passengers to and fro, making a mistake can be easily terrifying. Failure is part of the pathway to success on many occasions. A business entrepreneur can easily shift from one idea to another before landing on the one that his clientele might be very pleased with, an inventor may need to build various prototypes before launching the one that is functional, and an interior designer might try several different makeups before launching the room design and image that scales publicly.
With assurance, there are ways to reduce uncertainty associated with making mistakes as well as the anxiety behind the experiential potential of making mistakes. You can focus on what is mission critical and not-so critical mistakes while focusing on the former to get you through these circumstances. Pursuing solutions to play to your strengths while also maneuvering past weaknesses will be part of this mission toward managing personal anxiety when there is no room to make mistakes.
There are roles in which near-perfection is consistently expected. When undergoing surgery, the neurosurgeon has a minimal margin for error, the criminal defense attorney needs all of the details identified for the case, and many financial investors and accountants need flawless financial statements filed with different regulators as the SEC, IRS, and other local entities. Some consider that the consequences and costs of getting an aspect wrong or committing error on the job may not necessarily be marked with dramatic emotions. Intensive and profoundly deep-seated anxiety, pending job layoffs, and also having irate supervisors are potential barriers when desiring to be more error-proof on the job.
Bringing down your worry while also accounting for being error-proof is a significant aspect of navigating this emotional terrain of desiring error-free.
There is a paralysis of over-analysis with overthinking. You can read more here. Thoughts can hinder us more than promote us into deliberate values-based action. When there is an anticipatory fear about making mistakes while on the job, this narrows our attention and hinders our ability to cultivate joy in the present moment. Oftentimes, people tend to focus on one threat that prevents them from performing well or making a mistake.
Job profiles that demand a sense of tediousness and detail orientation as financial security, engineering, medicine, and law can draw people that are naturally prone to being extremely diligent, getting the task accomplished no matter what, and conscientious about performance standards. The exhortation to “be mindful of your work” can attract even more anxiety and produce more nervousness. Eliminating mistakes while on the job within these positions can intensify and amplify perfectionism and anxiety.
Know what is critical versus the nonessential mistakes
Overthinking and ruminating about every possible mistake can detract focus from what errors we need to focus upon the most. Continuously take action on the ones that promote greater opportunity costs and the ones that need to be prioritized. Other times, it can be errors associated with risks that people fail to recognize due to their unawareness with several blindspots and “not knowing what we don’t know” as well as what Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld calls, “Unknown unknowns” since there are circumstances to understanding something more fully – but not completely. Having the ability to put in mitigating measures to account for these opportunity costs can be beneficial while on the job as scheduling regular meetings with stakeholders to to uncover any potential risks that may be overlooked. Having a recurring meeting on the calendar with a specific expectation to get through personalized discussion as an expectation can ensure that you navigate complex decisions. Many cautious people tend to become very aware of the more critical risks and committing serious mistakes. They need a certain mental capacity to see beyond the normal and navigate uncertainty.
Create systems of habits that promote wellness instead of an overreliance on robotic, unrealistic, and misinformed perfection.
There’s evidence that basic strategies like checklists, for example, can reduce mistakes but are underutilized in particular fields. If you’re looking for inspiration, consider how you adapt actions taken in other industries or roles. For example, medical devices such as heart monitors and ventilators often incorporate redundant sensors and alarms to detect malfunctions and provide timely alerts. How could people in your role get earlier or duplicate warning signals automatically? Industries like aviation have strict reporting requirements for near-misses. Should you do the same if an article nearly goes to print with a significant factual mistake or a project barely meets its deadline and only after staff pulls an all-nighter? What would be most useful and genuinely focused on learning rather than blaming? Educate yourself on the science of how to build diverse teams that share opposing views, courageously speak up about concerns, and engage in healthy debate. Create a culture that rewards people for soliciting and positively reinforcing uncommon views. When someone points out something you didn’t know you didn’t know, take special care to encourage them to continue to do this in the future.
Have supports in place to navigate weaknesses
We all need assistance to navigate our own emotional terrain when it comes to our weak areas. Acquire a support person to help you keeping on track with documentation, systematizing the process, and engaging with you on implementing suggestions. It can’t just be your own diligent efforts, willpower, and personal imagination to curb the potential for mistakes on the job. Enlist other people that are gifted in the weaker areas, bring along co-workers, friends, and family members into this arena to engage the battle with you to keep getting better.
Perhaps it might be surfing waves until you have a few good surf rides or planting hundreds of seeds into your personal garden without expecting significant results. Consider taking up a hobby that will keep you grounded in the role that expects many results from you. There are ways to continuously keep your perfectionism and anxiety over making mistakes in check. When mistakes are costly and perfection is demanded, you might draw back from taking on more responsibility and missing opportunity.