What robs high achievers of happiness, and what to do about it.
Most of my friends are high achievers. Many of my Business Coaching clients are busy high achievers. I spent a good portion of my life chasing higher levels of success, so I consider myself a recovering high achiever. High achievers know how to quickly climb whatever ladder they find themselves on. However, they are not always great at ensuring the ladder is on the right wall. Meaning, all their hard work does not often translate into outcomes that make them genuinely happy for long. Here are some of the most common challenges.
A common problem with busy high achievers is that our achievements are often not symmetric. Meaning, we can habitually focus too much effort in one area of our life, such as career or business, which can leave other parts such as our family, health or happiness in great need of attention.
Also, we busy high achievers can get addicted to achieving. One achievement is barely checked off before we are setting our sights ever higher. Not only do we do this at work, it can spill over to other activities such as our sports, even our social lives. This translates into a life with an emphasis on the doing, striving, achieving, at the expense of being, relating, and appreciating. Quantity wins over quality. Doing over being. And while doing gets things done, being is where the real love and joy reside.
A third common problem, which is actually a variation on the previous one, is that high achievers can get stuck in being busy as a lifestyle. Not pleasant busy, chronic busy. It becomes all we know. The only string on the violin of our life. Problem is, it seems to work for us. It got us here, to this nice house, car or paycheck. However, with a decade or two of mindless daily repetition, it just becomes who we are and how we live our lives. It becomes our normal. We don’t notice it and we sure as heck can’t seem to turn it off. This can lead to us becoming virtual fugitives in our own lives. We are always running towards something else, forever skipping across the surface of things.
What to do?
First, it is important to distinguish between behaviors that serve you, and those that don’t. Doing your job fast and well may serve you. Working 70 hours a week just to make more money than you actually need, might not. When you take the time to find out what is truly important to you, what you genuinely value, what actually brings you meaning and joy – it allows you to make better decisions based on what really matters, not just out of habit. This can change things for the better, quickly.
Secondly, start to design more open or free time into your days and weeks. Stillness, or alone time, is the doorway into the deeper thoughts, intuitions, emotions, and joys. Yes, it can be a little disorienting or scary when you start to confront the many subtle thoughts and emotions that might lie beneath decades of your busy achieving ways.
However, if we simply meet and observe whatever bubbles up in our awareness – without any avoidance or judgement – most will quickly dissipate without drama. And besides, some of our long alienated emotions may actually hold a wealth of insight and intuition. They can open the door for real growth. On the other side of a noisy/busy brain, is a calmer mind and warmer heart.
“To know yourself as the Being underneath the thinker,
the stillness underneath the mental noise, the love and joy underneath the pain, is freedom, salvation, enlightenment.”
– Eckhart Tolle
Thirdly, be easy on yourself. Your habits around achieving and keeping busy are deeply conditioned and highly reinforced neuro-circuits that are not going to change overnight. If you are serious about finding an easier, more enjoyable way of living – it’s going to take some sustained commitment. And you can be sure of the occasional backsliding when things get tough.
Finally, don’t give up. I remind my coaching clients it’s about progress, not perfection. And if you can find a friend or partner to share the journey with, their support and understanding can go a long way to keeping you on track.
Information And Resources For My Fellow Coaches
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