High achievers have a lot of admirable qualities: they shoot for the stars, work extremely hard, and don’t quit until they’ve met their goals. However, there are many high achievers who see their achievement and standard of work as the most important part of their personality, which can be both destructive and entirely unproductive.
We tapped into our network to get the lowdown on the problems high achievers regularly face. From attempting to adhere to perfectionist standards to an overall fear of failure, these are the most common issues high achievers can be faced with — and how to shift that narrative.
They fear failure
“The problem with high achievers is in their feeling of being under the spotlight, as if everyone tracks (and judges) everything they do, tell, and feel,” says Jovan Milenkovic, co-founder of KommandoTech. “That’s why they’re afraid that if they fail, everyone will point fingers at them to tell them they’re not good enough.”
High achievers generally have a prominent fear of loss; they’ve worked hard all of their life and losing hard-earned things can be paralyzing. That’s why it’s vital that high achievers understand they cannot influence everything in life no matter how hard they tried, and that some things are not in their power. “I think they have to understand their self-worth goes beyond public recognition and their bank account and combat the constant self-doubt,” adds Milenkovic.
They hold themselves to impossibly high (perfectionist) standards
High achievers who perform at a perfectionist level have a difficult time delegating tasks. “Overachievers often end up labeled difficult to work for, and so take on too much work. Their unrealistic standards also make them feel like they’ll never be good enough or truly succeed,” says Heather Moulder, Career and Self-Leadership Coach.
They often feel lonely at work
“High achievers work so much that it’s difficult to find time or energy to develop deep work relationships,” explains Moulder. “Additionally, people tend to put them on a pedestal and so don’t want to develop relationships with them.” This makes it difficult for them to find colleagues, peers, and mentors who they can confide in and get advice from.
They believe they are their results
Whether it’s the numbers on a scoreboard, bank account, a scale, and anywhere in between, it’s risky to attach their self-worth and self-worth on the external factors. “This consistent need to prove themselves, hunger for (positive) feedback is not sustainable, it fluctuates quickly, and can lead to exhaustion, resentments, and burnout,” explains Sara Oblak Speicher, former award-winning international athlete turned coach, consultant, and strategist to successful leaders.
They run on motivation and willpower alone
Another thing that fast-tracks exhaustion, burnout, resentment, and even them giving up, is extensive use of willpower alone to reach and exceed external goals. According to Speicher, this is especially when those goals are based on someone else’s “should.” Like expectations of family, culture, boss, coach, team, fans, etc. The key is to tap into the inner source of inspiration, and commitment to follow through with aligned action.
They mistake being busy with being effective
Our ego loves busy work. Normally, there’s never enough time to accomplish it all, at the level high-achievers expect. However, it’s all a distraction from the actual work required to grow beyond the current zone of comfort, beyond the deeply-imprinted stories, and subconscious beliefs. According to Speicher, one of the hardest things for high-achievers is to slow down to create that needed space for the bigger vision, downtime required to heal, grow, expand their capacities to receive, and to allow for creativity to flow. And that applies to the physical body (think athletes), minds (entrepreneurs, leaders), and energetic vibration.
They tend to overcomplicate things
Tapping into the above-mentioned tendency to keep busy, high-achievers also tend to make things way more complicated than actually needed. “Simplicity in business strategies, for example, can be the bridge between spinning the wheels and moving the needle,” explains Speicher. “Moreover, quantum leaps and exponential growth, sustainable results, and multidimensional success are not about perfection but simplicity.”
One thing becomes everything
High achievers thrive on action, success, winning, and the list goes on. So when things are going great, everything is great. “One of the challenges I see is that when one thing isn’t going according to their plans is that it affects them on multiple levels,” explains Speicher. “It’s hard to separate who they are from their achievements/goals.” In other words, one issue gets translated into “I am a failure” and their inability to accomplish everything they had set out to, fuels guilt, shame, and can quickly spiral out of control.
It’s vital for high achievers to work on a sense of self-worth that’s derived from within, rather than seeking external validation on projects and achievements. It’s only once they’re able to separate their professional and personal goals from their impressive commitment to excellence that high achievers can truly thrive.