One of the reasons why so many high achievers are unhappy: their expectations rise faster than their accomplishments. Success is most satisfying when you have high aspirations but modest expectations. You can set ambitious goals without taking for granted that you’ll attain themAdam Grant
I used to think that being a high-achiever was something worth chasing.
I viewed it as a badge of honor.
I now believe it’s more a way of living in fear.
Fear that I’ll never be enough – the tension between a deep-seated desire to make an impact in the world and a fear that I’m not doing enough.
So I try to do everything.
I try to be the best at everything I touch. I set goals based on these high aspirations and a belief that I’m certain I can achieve them.
But, you can’t call yourself a high-achiever if you ain’t achieving.
And that’s the tension that comes from defining yourself as a high-achiever. The focus is always on the outcomes.
If there has been a singular hard lesson-learned from this upside-down year, it’s that we have zero control over outcomes.
The silver-lining of this year is that chaos can also be a great catalyst for change, whether by choice or by circumstance. It’s an opportunity to stress-test your beliefs.
I’ve intentionally spent the better part of the year digging into the ideas I’ve formed around achievement, specifically on the focus around outcomes.
I recently had a conversation with my fitness coach about the perspective shift it requires to live a healthy life and I thought it translated well beyond the boundaries of health and fitness.
We were discussing the success I’ve had in the year since I started with him. We began talking about what 2021 would look like if I were able to maintain the results I had seen thus far.
And he said something that was counterintuitive.
Once you reach a certain level of fitness, it’s tempting to want more and move the goal post further out, but it’s a trap. The shift has to be from one of continuous improvement to maintenance.
He goes on to write about it on his blog:
This sounds easy but it can be especially hard to maintain due to boredom and the ideas communicated to us by media and our circle of people. It is quite profitable to teach you that once you've achieved one goal you should immediately replace it with another, higher one. Fighting back against this more is better model that is part of consumerism and capitalism is a must for your long term health.
Once you reach a certain point your perspective needs to shift from an achievement and outcome driven focus to one of showing up for the practice with no incentive other than the practice itself.
The journey becomes the focus.
And perhaps the same can be said about high-achievement.
At some point, the focus needs to be less on the quantity of outcomes or the next level of achievement and more on the quality of the journey – on finding the few key areas of purpose in your life and committing to them and their practice.
It means you can’t do everything.
It’s the shift from high-achiever to purpose-driven achiever.
It’s a focus on the process of being rather than the process of doing.