I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it means to be a high performer. I’m in that category and it has been an extremely beneficial character trait, but also a character flaw. I’ll take the good with the bad and downright ugly, after all, it’s what makes me, me. And you, you.
There is a dark side though, pieces that don’t often get said out loud. That’s what I’m writing about here. Not just the downside of high performance but the dark side…including the lies we tell ourselves and the truth on the other side.
Anxiety is a real thing for high achievers and you’re likely struggling in this area in some way whether you know it or not. I did not know it for a long while.
A favorite section of the article is below, the author described the relationship and cycle of high performance and anxiety simply:
My achievements define my self-worth
My fear and anxiety force me to achieve
Without my fear and anxiety, I might lose the drive to achieve
Achieving worth is too important — I must stay anxious in order to protect my worth
Here’s what I know that you may not yet – you are insatiate by the success you are achieving – and you can’t quite put your finger on why so you keep looking outward to fill a what’s missing inside of you. Hint: nothing is missing, it’s there, you just need to unlock it.
Truth: You’re never going to fill that hole by achieving outward
Lie: If you just accomplish this one next “thing” you will be happy
And if you’re not yet exhausted by this pattern, I promise you it’s in the mail. Your insatiable addiction to achieve is fueled by overworking and that is not sustainable.
You’re telling yourself a big fat lie day in and day out; happiness is not right around the corner. You’re looking very successful on the outside, but feeling unsuccessful on the inside. The challenge for high performers like you and me is that it feels impossible to say this out loud.
People around you envy your picture perfect life and may only receive your feeling this way as simply ridiculous. Stop complaining. You’ve got a great life. This will be compounded by the fact that you struggle to articulate exactly what the problem is because you yourself can’t quite put your finger on it.
So how do you articulate it? How do you put your finger on it? There is no article or program or course I can point you to, it’s individual to you. We are complex puzzles called human beings and it takes a bit of internal work and unraveling to unlock what is inside of you. If you are seeking a change and ready to do the inner work, let’s have a chat to see if I can help.
I can share one thing that has elevated my level of daily happiness. PRESENCE.
Practicing presence each and every day. Journal. Meditate. Express gratitude. My favorite teacher in this area is Eckhart Tolle. Checkout this video for how to practice presence in your life and watch your level of happiness climb.
Truth: You have everything you need right now to feel happy in your life
Lie: You are a failure in life and business since you can’t get to the next level of achievement
One more thing, if you do watch the video with Eckhart, you’ll notice how slow he moves and speaks. Resist your temptation to skip ahead and practice presence with him instead. :O)
Are you highly competitive? Do you love to win? Me too. Actually I hate losing more than I love to win. So if I can’t win I don’t like to play and I know that’s true for you too.
If you know you can’t win, you retreat.
>> Think about that for a minute <<
You actually retreat whether you realize it or not. You don’t act when you do not know. Let’s get real on how this is holding you back in every area of your life.
Apply for the job you really want for fear you will not get it
Challenge the thinking in the room for fear of sounding stupid or not having the correct information or answer
Tell your partner or spouse how you’re feeling because you’re not 100% positive what exactly the problem is
Truth: Your true brilliance lies in the unknown
Lie: If you don’t win, if you’re not right, then you are worthless
Most high performers stay in the safe zone. Go through life bored, achieving but not working to their true potential for fear and anxiety they will be found out as worthless. And if you’re lucky there will be a nagging little voice telling you something is off. And if you’re really lucky, you won’t wait years and years to do something about it.
I never wanted to be in a leadership role or saw myself developing a team, it’s always so funny to me how we run away from the work we actually need to be doing. :O)
You’ll be happy to know it’s a full circle moment. Now here’s what I’ve learned.
I’ve been managing strategic partnerships since 2001. 18 years, well that’s sobering.
Back then, I really had no idea what I was doing exactly, except to inherently know every relationship was important. And every relationship was equally important.
In sales, they teach you to get to the decision maker, but what gets lost in translation is they don’t teach you to treat everyone like the decision maker. But they are. They are the decision maker to your next step.
>> Think on that one <<
When I arrived to the world of business ownership, I took this skill set and applied it successfully. Outward. Meaning with potential clients, partners, and anyone outside my business.
But I did not naturally think about applying it inward with my team. Team development was not even on my radar.
I mean when you first start a business it’s all hustle – to get out and market your product/service and close the sale.
But once you start to see consistent revenues and profitability is a possibility…you start to outsource and grow your team. This is the moment where your focus needs to turn inward to team development.
I realize this is so difficult. You’re exhausted. Hiring is supposed to provide relief and yet the team needs you just as much if not more.
Now here is really the MAIN POINT of my musings….
REGARDLESS OF THE RELATIONSHIP
Employee. Contractor. Part time. Full Time. Project work.
It’s not the financial relationship that determines what an individual joining your team and company culture needs from you, it’s the human element that determines their need. And they are all humans.
Let’s loop this back to Corporate leaders too. Regardless of the level within your organization and the number on their paycheck; the human element determines their need. And they are all humans.
A very simple way to start this process for those of you who are behind in this area:
Meet with your entire team – once per month is recommended. This is a great time to reinforce culture and values, provide updates on key initiatives to keep everyone on the same page and celebrate together.
Meet with your core team – I think of your core team as the leaders within your organization. I recommend a weekly sync up on key initiatives and make time to discuss challenges.
Meet with individuals – beyond the work they are doing for your company, it is important to understand the hopes, dreams and desires of each individual on your team. A new favorite question I added to my list after digging in to Wisdom at Work by Chip Conley >> How can I support you to do the best work of your life here at XYZ company?
Yeah, that’s a lot of time. But it’s so worth it.
>> A strong team is a competitive advantage <<
Creating clients who are raving fans will no doubt serve you well, but developing a team of raving fans will make you unstoppable.
Note: scroll to the middle to get the goods on your one leadership flaw and skip the story, or just keep reading.
We are wired for safety, not success.
I’ve watched hundreds of people hold themselves back because of just this.
But not you, and certainly not me. We are different.
We’re addicted to success.
Please reach out to let me know I am not alone.
I came out to myself about my success addiction this past year. It took great effort to uncover it, but I finally came face to face with the one flaw that had been holding me back for the first 43 years of my life.
You see, I am wired for safety too, except stacking up success was one of my ways to stay safe.
In case you missed it, take a peek here to read more on this. Here’s a brief recap:
I used achievements to get attention from my parents, but what I more deeply desired was their love.
And somewhere along the way that coping mechanism turned in to a character flaw. A flaw that produced success. So it has served me well, but there’s a dark side too.
I would stack up accolades to the ceiling and then fall apart. Sabotaging myself in some way. Only allowing a certain level of success because I believed I was either 1) not good enough or 2) shining too brightly 3) all basically leading to the idea you would not love me anymore.
I knew most of this, but I was not able to see the pattern I had created that was holding me back. I actually knew I was self-sabotaging but could not solve it. And believe me, I love to solve puzzles but this one was a doozy.
It was affecting my happiness at work, at home, my level of income and ultimately my joy for life.
Some of the ways it showed up for me:
I felt bored or anxious and was not able to predict which it would be from day to day
I felt disconnected from myself, my husband, and generally everyone around me
I knew I looked successful on the outside, but I felt extremely unsuccessful on the inside
I knew something was really off, but I could not put my finger on it
And most importantly, I did not know how to talk about it and who I could share it with
So maybe you’re not addicted to success like I was, but I guarantee you have developed one flaw that is holding you back in life and leadership.
Do you know what it is?
You see in my case, my pattern of success addiction was keeping me safe. Somewhere along the way as the years of b.s. from my external environment stacked up my brain became wired to tell me I was not enough. And this is what I believed.
You’re doing this too, and you will keep devising strategies to protect yourself just like me.
I suspect you’re feeling:
Bored with where you’re at
A desire to do something different, more in your zone of genius
And most likely you also:
Are struggling with intimacy in one or more relationships
Are searching outside of you to fix it OR you’re ignoring it
Now hang with me because here’s why your one flaw is killing your leadership, if it’s not obvious already…
>> A bored leader is disengaged <<
>> A leader not operating in their zone of genius places the business at risk <<
>> A leader struggling with intimacy in relationships is less effective with their team <<
>> A leader doing nothing or looking outward will fail <<
It’s always an inward game. Think on that one for a bit.
Literally 10 years ago – January 2009 – I was one semester from finishing my MBA program, living in Massachusetts, and still in Corporate living out my dream of success and this idea crept in to my mind…
I want to leave my job and START MY OWN BUSINESS.
That makes me giggle now.
I had not yet said this out loud to anyone. It was an idea. A crazy idea. An impossible idea.
Now, if you know of me at all, I’m pretty sure you are well aware I made it happen.
And what a ride it has been.
I had no idea 10 years ago to this day that I would…
Become a licensed acupuncturist
Startup, build and lead two clinics
Move back to Minnesota
Fall in love with and move to Vermont
Write a best-selling book
Startup, build and lead a coaching and consulting business
And the list goes on…
What have you done in the past 10 years that has surprised you?
I became a SERIAL ENTREPRENEUR. I was already a wanderlust. :O)
And really, I’m just getting started.
But as we kick off the New Year it feels appropriate to reflect on what I’ve learned in this adventure of becoming and I’m sharing my biggest lesson of all…
The SUCCESS YOU DESIRE is locked within you.
Now I use the word success loosely, because it’s different for everyone.
Maybe you desire to…
Get a new leadership role within your company
Startup a new business
Develop a closer relationship with your spouse or partner
Work beyond your potential in to your true zone of genius
Make multiple six or even seven figures this year
Find connection and fulfillment with the success you have already achieved
Do any of these resonate for you?
Actually GREAT. Because the success you desire is available to you.
I mean, have you ever looked wildly successful on the outside, and felt shamefully unsuccessful on the inside?
HELL YES!! That’s my answer to this question. Many. Times.
I’ve been addicted to success my entire life. The outward kind of success.
I used success to first get the attention from my parents I so desperately wanted so that ultimately I would get the love from them I so desperately needed. To be wanted. We can couch trip on that another time.
And somewhere along the way that coping mechanism turned in to a character flaw. A flaw that produced success in both my Corporate career and as an entrepreneur. So don’t get me wrong, it has served me well.
But on the other side of the coin…not so well.
I kept producing success but would stack up the accolades to the ceiling and then fall apart. Sabotaging myself in some way. Typically by creating challenges with my health from overworking to achieve. Then I would get back up and do it all over again. Always hitting a ceiling, never breaking through.
Until I started to work on the inward game of success.
And magically, or so it seemed at first, as I keep looking and working inward, the outward success just takes care of itself. And there is no ceiling. :O)
Now I did not need to leave my Corporate gig and start a business to figure this out. I can tell you though, that having started several businesses and logging 500+ hours coaching people to do the same has helped me to not only understand this for myself, but to help others uncover it for themselves.
Entrepreneurship is a mirror. And if you want to go the distance with no ceiling to your success, it’s a reflection you cannot ignore. So each day I challenge myself to work inward because all the success I desire is mine for the taking, and the key to achieve it is all locked inside. Thus my biggest lesson so far.