As a former competitive swimmer, I am a recovering overachiever. I must admit, it has served me well at times - not just in competitions but in studies, subsequent qualifications and when juggling life's challenges, in general. There is a sense of pride that stems from focus, discipline and being self-motivated to get the job done. Some of the traits pertinent to overachievers are ideally suited to being a successful entrepreneur, or a leader.
But at what cost?
A classic definition of an overachiever is someone who does more than they are expected to do, or who is more successful than others. My personal definition is that an overachiever is someone who determines their self-worth on the basis of their accomplishments (or lack thereof). A healthy achiever would be someone who tries their best but understands that the ultimate outcome of their work is influenced by many factors, and does not impact their value as a person.
Here are the nine signs that you may be an overachiever and the impact this can have on your work & life balance:
1 Self-neglect. An overachiever will often ignore personal needs and relationships in order to get the job done. This can mean working through lunch, dismissing your workout commitment because of a work deadline, or responding to work commitments, instead of checking in on a relative.
2. Impossible Schedule. Overachievers routinely have distorted expectations of themselves and others. They tend to dismiss their achievements and overlook or minimize their day-to-day work. An overachiever will judge a “healthy” schedule as unambitious or lazy and try to cram as many things into their agenda as possible.
3. Critical Mindset. High standards are the personal calling card of the overachiever—but these standards are often harshly applied, both to self and others. This can cause lots of tension in close relationships, in teams working under-pressure, and also when receiving feedback from an overachieving boss who is never quite satisfied with our results.
4. Push, push, push. Overachievers are always trying to beat their latest record or accomplishment. Yet, praise and enjoyment of past achievements is always fleeting, and overachievers are constantly trying to justify, improve, and develop themselves with the next big project. This push mentality leads to overall lack of job & life satisfaction, and inability to celebrate their achievements.
5. Time Pressure. Overachievers are always racing the clock. Small tasks take on big urgency, as overachievers are constantly racing against themselves to get the most done in the least amount of time possible. This allows for efficiency and productivity but often takes away from the bigger picture, strategic thinking and enjoyment of the process.
6. Result over process. Typically, overachievers are focused on outcomes rather than process. They don’t get doing something just for the sheer pleasure of doing it. But, they might add “take a break” to their twenty item to-do list, just to make sure it gets done of course.
7. Guilt. Many overachievers report feeling guilty, empty, or directionless if they are not working on something. If you try and force an hour or day “off” an overachiever will quickly fill it with a series of useful tasks or chores. Many overachievers were shaped and molded by parents and upbringings that put a premium on accomplishment over enjoyment.
8. Fear of Failure. Most overachievers are terrified of failure. Failure is inefficient, displeasing to self and others, and it gives any overachiever’s inner critic a boatload of ammunition against them. This phobia of making mistakes limits their ability to innovate and experiment, so crucial in developmental phases of a product, service or business.
9. People-pleasing. Since most overachievers come from a long line of other highly-achieved types, it’s no surprise that overachievers are also very eager to please. They learn early on that achievement is a way to secure love and approval from the people they care about. These habits start early, and overachievers don't have the chance to see via trial and error that they have value and worth independent of their accomplishments.
The challenge you have as an overachiever is whatever you do, never feels like enough. There is always more to do in an impossible time frame, and whatever accomplishments you have obtained, quickly fade in the face of endless pending tasks.
Not only does it keep us infinitely busy, overachieving makes us perpetually dissatisfied. Overachievers make for demanding partners and bosses. Whats more, as overachievers we often link our self-worth to our results. If the outcome of our work doesn't meet our expectations, our self-esteem and confidence suffer, making us doubt ourselves. Overachieving weakens our resilience, often making us unable to take on constructive criticism and learn and grow from the experience in a positive way.
Ultimately, what got you here, is not what's going to get you there. In other words, even if overachieving contributed to your efficiency and productivity in the past, it is not what's going to bring about a deep level life satisfaction, allowing you for an authentic work&life balance and creating work you love.
So, are you an over-achiever? If so, how does it impact your life? Do you work or live with one?
Does your organisation praise overachieving, or have you noticed shifts away from this behaviour in your life & business? Please let me know in comments.
Leadership & Empowerment Coach
Yoga Origins Founder
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