Stuck in My Head - The Curse of the High Achiever

I’m sure if you take a moment, you’d be able to think of someone who you’d say is a high achiever or maybe even an overachiever. All you’d have to do is look at the big names in the personal and professional development space and I guarantee you’ll see a list of high-performing high achievers.

That’s the goal, right? To be a consistently high performing high achiever? To be able to make a difference in your corner of the world? To avoid stress and burnout to live a long, happy, healthy life?

Here’s the thing, though…

… being recognized as a high achiever in your workplace, friend group or family can actually make it really difficult to achieve these goals.

I call it the curse of the high achiever.

There are three main hurdles every high achiever has to learn how to overcome if they want to go from overwhelmed and burnt out into that high performance space where they’re truly creating a positive impact and have the energy, health, focus and motivation to get the most out of their life.

Curse #1: You’re so good at what you do that people keep asking for more

As a high achiever, I’m going to bet that you’ve been able to accomplish some pretty amazing things and are highly skilled at what you do and are very driven to keep on improving and expanding that skillset. Chances are that other people around you (like your boss) have noticed.

This makes you the go-to person to:

  • train or onboard new employees to your project(s)
  • take on new responsibilities when there’s no additional budget to hire someone else
  • get asked for help when someone is stuck or overwhelmed
  • fill gaps that other people didn’t notice yet

This is all great in some ways because it shows who you are and what you’re capable of (sometimes surprising even yourself). But it can also sabotage you and your health can suffer like it did for Shazia.

When I met Shazia, she had been working at a very busy healthcare organization for 15 years. Each year she received a glowing performance evaluation and was recognized for the efficiency and quality of her work. Over time, Shazia’s responsibilities grew until the point where she was the project manager for three keystone projects and was responsible for managing a large group of people. Anytime someone was stuck or needed support, Shazia was there. Anytime a friend needed help – Shazia was there.

Shazia was managing okay, but then she started to notice the toll it was taking on her health. She wasn’t sleeping as well, noticed that her patience was almost non-existent and found herself being short and irritable when she never would have been before. Everything came crashing down around Shazia after an annual routine check-up with her doctor determined she had thyroid cancer. After her surgery and treatment, Shazia knew that she couldn’t go back to the way things were before she got sick and wanted to make a change.

Less than a week after implementing the Flow State Three Tier Planning System along with blocking out her Ideal Week, I received this from Shazia:

“I feel like a new me! Even though I’m still managing several projects and the same amount of people, I’m feeling more in control of my day and I’m actually getting my own tasks done at work!!!! I’m sticking to my healthy habits (whoop whoop) and my boss has said he’s noticed a positive change in me and how I’m showing up at work. Everyone is responding really well to the new boundaries that I’ve set. I can’t wait to see what comes next!”

All it took was some small shifts in Shazia’s workflow and daily habits for her to model what anti-burnout culture looks like at work, feel in control of her health and stick to her habits, and consistently get her work done so she could shut her brain down when it was time to go home at the end of the day and enjoy the rest of her life.

Shutting down our high-achieving brain can be really tricky if our to-do lists are too long and never ending, though, which leads us into our next struggle.

Curse #2: You have big goals and big dreams, but forget that you’re human and there are 24 hours each day

I get it! You love to learn new things, push yourself, and seek out ways you can continue to make your life and your corner of the world a better place. You see so much possibility and you want to make that happen!

But slowly but surely, your to-do list keeps getting longer and longer and the time for other things (like sleep and taking care of yourself…) become harder and harder to prioritize.

You just have too much to do and too many people counting on you!

This is exactly how Jilandra felt when she reached out to me. She was working part time while also growing and running her own virtual assistant business. Oh, and she was also a mother to four boys under the age of 8 one of which was diagnosed with Autism.

Jilandra knew that she needed better balance in her life, but didn’t know how to find it because she kept getting pulled in so many different ways and was always exhausted. After we chatted about the four different energy spheres and how to optimize and adjust your routines to work with her energy rather than against it, Jilandra saw a huge, positive shift in her life.

Instead of having one day where she could be incredibly productive and then two or three days of struggling to focus, she was able to consistently stick to her routine, accomplish her tasks, and make progress on all of her goals – all while being able to spend time with her family.

Pressure from family and our peers to spend “enough” time with them, as well as to live up to expectations can be really tough for high-achievers who also struggle with perfectionism. This is something I see a lot in nearly all of my clients, and it was especially true for Mark.

Curse #3: It’s lonely up there on the pedestal that other people put you on because of who you are and what you’ve accomplished

Have you ever had someone say “You can do it! You’re so good at everything!” or “You don’t need help, you’ve always got everything under control!” or “Everything you do is perfect!”

Mark heard this all too often, especially from their mother-in-law who kept telling them how perfect they were all the time. From the outside, everyone saw a confident, happy, successful human.

But for Mark, they were drowning in negative self-talk, difficult emotions, impostor syndrome, and feeling completely overwhelmed but not knowing who to talk to. They felt unable to ask for help because they didn’t want to disappoint anyone. Instead, they hid in the busyness of their day, keeping their head down and focused on taking on as many tasks as possible so they didn’t have the chance to see how stressed and miserable they were.

The first step Mark took within the Elevate program was to identify all the unhelpful beliefs that they had developed or was taught over the course of their life and reprogram them to become serving, rather than sabotaging. Then, working through my Next Level program, Mark learned how to share with vulnerability and ask for help in a way that empowers others to unlock their full potential. This way, instead of being up on that pedestal all by themselves, Mark was able to bring other people up with them and that was a beautiful thing to watch.

It’s time to break the curse

Breaking the curse of the high achiever doesn’t mean changing who you are. You are a high achiever, you have big goals and dreams, and you want to have an impact on this world.

The difference is, those who have broken the curse know how to recover their energy, optimize their habits, and elevate their impact by making sure they’re focusing on the right things at the right time. They’re clear on what they want, how they’re going to get there, and who they need in their corner to make it happen.

Ready to break free from the self-sabotaging aspects of your high achieving nature? Go here to take the first step.

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