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Peace over Perfectionism: Focusing on the most important things this winter season

Rachelle Bernadel is the IB’s University Relations Administrator at the IB Global Centre in Bethesda, MD, USA. She is also an IB graduate of Parkdale High School in Riverdale, Maryland.

As we move into the winter season, it tends to be a time of busyness. Busy organizing IB deadlines and helping students finalize college applications, busy making sure students are on track with their Extended Essay progress and just simply busy with the rhythms of end of year life. In the midst this, it is easy to fall into the trap of “yes and yes” mentality. Frantic when things fall through the cracks and pressured to make sure that every last detail is in place before you go on fall or winter break. IB students can often take on this mindset as well. The stressors that the program induces can sometimes create environments of imbalance and mental warfare if not managed correctly.

Perfectionism is so layered and can come from many spheres, I want to acknowledge that.  But in this post I wanted to share a few controllable factors that may be helpful in achieving peace over perfectionism. Essentially leading to greater quality and productivity in work.

  1. Brain Drain: When preparing to begin your day, list out all of the things that are at the forefront of your mind. Write/type them out and “drain your brain” of all the scattered thoughts. In doing this, you can prioritizing your thoughts, words, and actions so that you have more balance and flow in accomplishing tasks.
  1. Set expectations (real ones): This is where things get very murky and perfectionism sets in to take captive of any hints of peace. Carol Dweck has done some great studies on this called “The Effort Effect.” When students were told ahead of time that an assignment/task was a tough exercise, and they may make some mistakes, get confused or feel silly at times — but if they were assured that they will learn a lot of useful things in the process, then they were more motivated to persist along the process of completing a task. So set expectations and give room to buffer shortcomings.
  1. Laugh! One of my favorite Proverbs is “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” When I was in IB, it was so easy to be overcome with all of the demands of the program. If you walked into my IB classroom, you would sometimes find a group of us huddled around a computer laughing hysterically at one of YouTube’s many videos. Finding humor enables us to see beyond rigid, fixed viewpoints and shift perspectives quickly when things don’t always work out.


So this season, give yourself a break. As a student, your school and potential college need you to practice exuding that Learner Profile balance because life is a jungle that does not just end after you graduate high school.


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