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Inner vs. Outer Standards for “Good Work”
The subtle difference that makes all the difference
Knowing whether I’m working to satisfy my own standards or someone else’s—and actively choosing my own—has been huge in managing my workaholism.
I’d often tinker with presentations for hours, unsure if the work was “good enough.” The problem: I was trying to guess someone else’s (my boss’ or client’s) standard of “good enough,” and never felt safe handing anything in. This is common in many “knowledge” or “creative” fields where the quality of work is a matter of opinion.
Companies are happy to give no clarity. They love slogans like “good enough is not good enough,” which sound good at pep rallies but in practice are moronic recipes for widespread burnout.
Recently, I finally took the risk of handing in something that satisfied me without playing anxious guessing games about my clients and coworkers. I quickly found that everyone was just as happy with much less-polished work.
Turns out, my standards meet or exceed other people’s. If they ever don’t (hasn’t happened), I’ll take the opportunity to get clarity and adjust. If anything, though, I suspect they remain too high—certainly for the fulfillment I get from doing my job.
But until I sort that out, a small victory is that I’m working more on my own terms, and that’s given me a few evenings back.