A Therapist Teaches You How To Stay Flexible With Your Career Goals

While it's important to have goals, having a rigid, long-term career plan can affect your work fulfillment.

By Jourdan Travers, LCSW | January 12, 2023

Traditional wisdom about career growth praises having a career map that is set in stone. However, new research reveals that this may not be the best advice for today's professionals.

The job market is far more fluid today than it was a decade ago. The rapid advancement of technology has given rise to a world where it is possible to work from anywhere, with anyone, and even in fields you may not have an academic background in.

To keep up with the times and take advantage of this fluidity, a professional must keep an open mind and break out of career silos of the past.

Here are two reasons why it is no longer prudent to plan out your career to a tee.

#1. It leads to undue stress

Having your career mapped out from start to finish comes with the territory of being a perfectionist.

While perfectionism may seem like a recipe for career success, science offers compelling evidence that not all perfectionism is created equal and that one type of perfectionism can, in fact, harm your mental health.

According to a study published in Frontiers in Psychology, perfectionists can either be 'striving' or 'evaluative.'

  • Striving perfectionists are those who identify with an internal, independent, and optimistic desire to be the best at what they do.
  • Evaluative perfectionists focus on setting rigid, unrealistic goals and judge themselves harshly when they do not achieve them. As such, evaluative perfectionists are more prone to developing mental health conditions like depression and anxiety.

So, although it's good to have an idea about how you can leverage your individual strengths in your career, ditch the evaluative perfectionism that comes with a rigid career plan. This will only hold you back and possibly lead to burnout.

In today's job market, a career path is rarely predictable. Your goals are likely to change with the changes in the industry and the economic climate. Keep your options open, be enthusiastic about picking up new skills, and keep an eye on the latest developments in areas that interest you.

#2. You miss out on new opportunities and sources of inspiration

Going into a career with a rigid and long-term plan is like being a racehorse with blinders on. The problem with this approach is that your career is not a solo sprint. It is a marathon of collaboration.

When you're focused on hitting your own career goals (independent of your organization's goals), you often lose sight of how you contribute to your organization's big-picture success. It is important to understand that, wherever you work, you are part of a team. The employees who are most successful are often the ones who are perceptive to what the team needs and offer to help with their unique skill set.

In fact, research shows that employee performance is significantly improved when an employee's goals are aligned with those of the organization. This alignment of goals also increases your commitment to the organization's success, which, ultimately, fast-tracks your success.

So, the fact that you are not tied down by a long-term goal can be an advantage if you are savvy enough to pick up new goals that the organization needs help achieving.


Our careers are an ever-evolving journey filled with ups and downs. Instead of trying to predict what will happen next, it is essential to stay mindful of where you are right now and embrace whatever comes your way with enthusiasm and openness. Overplanning your career path could limit opportunities for growth or lead to unnecessary stress.

Focus on setting realistic goals while remaining open-minded about other possibilities that may present themselves along the way.