I wish I knew then what I know now.
Growing up I spent a lot of time with my maternal grandmother. She was the glue that held our family together. When she spoke, everyone heeded.
She told me I was smart and was expected to excel in school. If I graded anything less than an A, I hid the paper. To please her I became driven and consequently developed what is known as a Type-A personality.
This driven demeanor spilled-over into my adulthood and career. My pursuit was to do all things as perfectly as possible. My self-worth was centered on it, so I thought.
When I worked in corporate, I was great at what I did but strangely I wasn’t particularly focused on climbing the company ladder or participating in organizational politics. Giving me a significant project with the autonomy to do my own thing was important to me, thinking, “Now I really can show others how good I am,” so I believed.
I’d developed an overachiever’s personality. Yet I was secretly suffocating and didn’t know it. Caught up in the drama, I felt the need to meet a goal beyond expectations, but afterwards never feeling satisfied or fulfilled. I became a silent seeker of ‘something more’.
What was it, I thought? There had to be a way out to get off the ‘hedonic treadmill’ so I could have peace of mind and breathe.
The Alarm Clock
It wasn’t until years later, while teaching a college design class, I saw this pattern in a student and realized her entire self-worth was wrapped around grades and high-achieving. From this experience I awakened to the reality of who I’d become.
Po Bronson discusses the research in, NurtureShock on the mistake of parents telling their kids they’re smart. He calls it “the inverse power of praise.” The study revealed that as a result children are burdened to maintain the reputation of being smart and talented. And the downside is the love for achieving becomes addictive.
The Burden Factor
Today, I’ve observed a shift in the demeanor of the women I coach. They are experiencing what I call ‘the burden factor’ of being recognized not necessarily for their gender, but for their performance and greatness that is causing them to stay stuck and creating stress about their future.
They are searching for ‘something more,’ also.
Unfortunately management training and other women development programs aren’t recognizing or addressing this overachieving defiance but instead are viewing and training women with old, outdated information.
Staffing strategist Gail Miller said,
Overachievers have a hard time prioritizing because everything is equally important. Choosing one project to focus on at the expense of another can cause tremendous turmoil. After all, there’s no excuse for being lax about any task, no matter how far down on the priority list. This dilemma frequently causes overachievers to get stuck; it can be just too difficult to make those painful choices about what not to do perfectly. This type of wheel spinning is a drain on personal productivity.
My job is to bring awareness to the other aspects of themselves so we can root up the causes of these burdens and together work out an intentional transformation strategy.
What I Know Now
Here are four things I’ve struggled with or learned about high-achievement that wish I knew as a child:
- High-achievement is a behavior, not an accomplishment. You set the bar high because you’re expected to be the best so you tell yourself you’re the best. The brain convinces the mind that this is true and should not be second-guessed or challenged. When challenged, you come across as obstinate when disagreeing with others.The burden is you may not seek or accept help and advice when offered.
- High-achievers believe they have the right solutions all the time and everyone else is wrong. Always being right is a heavy burden to bear and hurts your relationships, health and wellbeing. As Dale Carnegie said in How to Win Friends & Influence People,
Never tell people they’re wrong
The weight of working harder to discount the ideas of others is stressful and taxing.
3. High-achievers believe they are indispensable. You have difficult recovering from being laid off, removed from a position or placed in a position you don’t want. If you don’t get your own way, you would rather just leave even if you don’t have a plan for where you will go next.
4. High-achievers work to impress. You are hesitant about speaking to others about your failures. Even when others won’t judge you, it’s you who judge yourself. According to clinical professor John Eliot, author of Overachievement,
Failure to achieve is a poor refection on themselves.
5. Bonus: High-achievers are information hoarders. You have an information addiction. You accumulate degrees, podcasts, teleseminars and books as if it were a hobby. However, it becomes a burden when you spend more time ingesting knowledge than you do gaining long-lasting wisdom from what you read, listen to or experience. With no application, it’s unlikely any of these data will alter your concept or behavior.
A New Generation
There’s a new generation of high-achieving women who are confident, ambitious and driven, but are experiencing an inner struggle no one is talking about—restlessness.
I know how this feels. It’s frustrating to believe for every mountain climbed, there’s another one to be conquered. You believe the stories in your mind that were generated by your “life cheerleaders” that you’re smart, invincible and can achieve anything no matter the cost.
Because this goal is just as hard to define and it is to achieve, your restlessness rarely subsides.
So you put on your “super-woman” cape, work hard and filling in your free time with tasks or planning what comes next while neglecting your family, social life and taxing your health and peace of mind.
You can be a flourishing high-achiever. You can Lead 2 Flourish and Enjoy More Life at what you love instead of based on emotional needs by asking yourself some very difficult questions.
Given that less than 30% of people in the world describe themselves as flourishing, I am hosting my Lead 2 Flourish for Women Who Lead Executive Roundtable on November 18, 2017 in Philadelphia, Pa.
You will learn how High-Achieving is a Result, Not a Goal with an opportunity to have a live breakthrough conversation with me and a limited table of 10 women leaders where we will examine where you are, discuss and apply proven interventions guided by positive psychology and neuroscience that I use and teach.
If practiced, you can turn your restlessness into a strategy, find lasting contentment and move on from success to significance.
Click here to reserve your seat at the table.
We will have breakthrough conversations about your needs and desires that you were hoping to have fulfilled by your work. Look to quiet the restless rambler in your soul and open new paths to true freedoms of love, joy and contentment, all while still achieving high.
Call To Action
Raise workplace morale and performance by putting the science of human flourishing to work for your organization. Work with a professional who can shine the light on the best your employees have to offer. For training, consulting and/or keynotes, email DrDeana@DrDeanaMurphy.com or contact us here.
Stay connected on Twitter, LinkedIn @DrDeanaMurphy