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5 reasons overachievers miss the mark

In today’s fast-paced, ever-innovating luxury sector where nothing is certain but rapid-fire change, masses have surrendered themselves to “overachievement” in pursuit of career success and a life replete with wealth.

Not just ordinary success, but rather the kind that exceeds expectations courtesy of excessive “above and beyond” effort put forth.

Indeed, overachievement is a concept that’s seemingly become a gold standard on how to become a “superstar” in business, career goals and life overall. Just Google search “how to overachieve” and the web will dutifully deliver over 355,000 resources to help propel your prosperity.

While overachievement has induced profound innovation, breakthroughs, productivity and abundance for individuals, organizations, industries and economies at large, there’s a dark side to this extreme approach to advancement. For some, yes, dreams come true, but throngs of others miss the mark despite best efforts.

“This often happens because they’re aiming for achievements instead of a deeper understanding of themselves and of what they want,” says Keren Eldad, a certified business coach and trusted advisor to industry-leading executives, entrepreneurs and premier organizations like Beyond Capital, Luxxotica, Van Cleef & Arpels.

”It’s a silent story shared by many who present a happy, accomplished and enviable image: one of putting on pretenses and internally writhing with angst and anxiety, of never having enough, of insecurity, doubt and dissatisfaction – a state for which I have coined  the Superstar Paradox.

“The paradox is when pursuing the illusory things we think we want actually produces undesirable results like strain and that actually impedes our ability to attain what we want. It can become an exhausting and hugely debilitating vicious circle.”

According to Eldad, the Superstar Paradox is a tough condition to solve because there’s one major hurdle to get past: admitting there’s a problem. “This requires relinquishing our main armour: that we know everything; that we have things ‘figured out’. The key lies in accepting that ‘we don’t know what we don’t know’.”

Taking that proactive first step is critical.

Eldad offers five foundational insights to help ensure some of your overachievement behaviours won’t actually be undermining your success even after you’ve actually realized superstar status.

Reframe your success story. Overachievers often believe that success only comes from power, money or status. Yes, those things are important benchmarks, but being successful in life overall should be the true Holy Grail. So, if you are a C-suite executive, or aspire to be, but are riddled with anxiety, stress, pain and dissatisfaction – with relationships suffering in that wake – it’s evident that money and status aren’t proving as worthwhile as you might have believed. To initiate needed change, be brave enough to reframe your personal story. Actually sit down and map out what you would hope for each facet of your life to look like if it were a true success. Start with career goals as that might come most easily, but then do separate exercises for other areas of your life like marriage, children, extended family, friendships, professional networks, social media/networking, investments, travel, physical fitness, self-care/beauty, fashion and style, transportation, entertainment, hobbies and passions and so on. You’ll soon see that life fulfillment means – and needs – so much more than what happens on the work front. You might come to the realization that you’ve been missing out on quite a lot in your quest for career glory. Reframe your success story with a more holistic approach to get there on all fronts.

Get out of your own way. Even superstars create self-imposed limitations based on what they originally perceived their goal to be. Once achieved, it’s instinctive to want to bask in that “place,” both emotional and physical.  But overachievers inevitably will want more and then other kinds of self-imposed limitations kick in that are often founded on what we perceive our own capabilities and opportunities – or lack thereof – to be. Even the most confident over-achievers suffer the “can’t rant” internal dialogue. Take heed that “can’t” usually is not a real thing. This word usually really means “I won’t”. I won’t try, I won’t make it, and so on. Yes, you worked hard to earn your current accolades and are pleased with where you are, but sometimes a hard pivot is needed to get you where you really want to go. Resources like talent, money, conditions, time, etc., are merely challenges that can be overcome with the right amount of ingenuity.

Conquer your “fatal flaw”. A “fatal flaw” is that which causes an otherwise exceptional individual to bring about their own downfall. Many overachievers become hooked on their actualized achievements and come to rely on fake confidence and aggrandizement versus operating from a place of  authenticity in an effort to cover up that flaw, whether consciously or unconsciously. So, to achieve true superstar status fostering genuine, lasting happiness, it’s imperative to discern if you have a fatal flaw and, once identified, work wholeheartedly to resolve it – or learn how to effectively function at a high-level amid it (if that’s even possible). One piece of published research identified ten fatal flaws that derail leaders that included things like “don’t collaborate,” “resist new ideas,” and “accept their own mediocre performance” with one particularly eye-opening point of note: that the flaws identified “sound like obvious flaws that any leader would try to fix. But the ineffective leaders we studied were often unaware that they exhibited these behaviours. Leaders should take a very hard look at themselves and ask for candid feedback on performance in these specific areas.”

Course-correct crippling self-constructs. A common obstacle to a “superstar” realizing genuine happiness is their own reliance on self-esteem, which is different from self-acceptance. Self-esteem is defined as “a positive or negative orientation toward oneself; an overall evaluation of one’s worth or value” and, for overachievers, depends on how they then “rank” against the others in their society. Self-acceptance is founded on other key self-constructs like self-compassion – a person’s ability to forgive themselves for essentially being human and, thus, imperfect. Overachievers are susceptible to being heavily dependent upon the opinions of others, their corresponding status and their perceived stature versus understanding, and primarily relying on, self-acceptance. In many cases, this feeling of unworthiness is what coaches like me consider to be fatal flaws for the overachiever. It’s that “something” about themselves which they feel if others knew in full, would cause them to disrespect or outright reject them. For overachievers, what become fatal flaws are often regular imperfections like weight, assets, health, children, relationships and even their home. Ultimately, this tendency can cause “superstars” to make trade-offs, preferring “safe” and “lucrative” jobs and titles over pursuing their true passions, resigning themselves to a life in “golden handcuffs” or one that’s “good enough”. It causes them to settle for mere connection over true bonding, real friendship and even true love (like marrying the “right” person on paper versus the person you actually are in deep love with).

Resolution here can be found when an overachiever consciously fights back against the urge and instinct to beat themselves up for not being exactly “done” or for other self-assessed shortcomings, and replace those notions with ideation promoting high self-esteem characteristics. This can include being open to criticism, acknowledging mistakes and being comfortable with giving and receiving compliments. But, once the mind starts to habitually recognize internal dialogue promoting low self-worth, combating it will become perfunctory. Truly happy superstars are steadfast with the practice of being kind to themselves; unequivocal in their belief that self-criticism is self-defeating. 

Pray for a sh*tstorm! If you didn’t buy all the above points yet and think (as many superstars do), “Nah, I got this,” then brace yourself because a curve ball is bound to present and throw you off your game. But, this unimagined disruption can be a GOOD thing! So many overachievers spend most of their lives working to avoid the pain of uncertainty or problems, assuring themselves with zealous overconfidence that “it’s all going to work out” based on the current approach or way of thinking – and never mind that nagging dissatisfaction and angst. However, I’ve found that when superstars are at their most comfortable or when stress finally boils over, they not only find themselves immersed in a major “issue,” but often a major storm. When this happens, embrace it and open yourself to the series of new possibilities it presents. Yes, it will be uncomfortable and tremendously unsettling, but it can also present an exciting opportunity: the wake-up call to finally recognize where you are and what got you there, what weaknesses and threats have gotten the best of you, and work on thoughtfully-strategized resolutions that’ll make you emotionally stronger and your circumstances better than before. 

Given these advice-points are based on Eldad’s years of work and research on C-suite executives and entrepreneurs at the very top of their fields, this frontline perspective can be a prudent pivot point amid your own potentially falsely-fixated career trajectory. “There’s been a common starting point with every single C-level superstar, multimillionaire and just general overachiever I’ve worked with,” Eldad notes. “They all think they know ‘what to do’ and ‘where they want to be’ in the world but get tripped up since these doings and places aren’t necessarily what will bring them genuine fulfillment.”

Statistics seem to confirm Eldad’s contention across departments, including entrepreneur mental health issues; divorce, suicide and anxiety rates; escalating workplace stress and dissatisfaction, antidepressant use, narcissism disorder data in relation to anxiety and panic disorders ... the ominous list goes on.

“It’s time to stop living life for achievements, money, accolades and the validation of other people,” Eldad urges. “It is my hope that those locked in patterns causing anxiety and misery–and a life devoid of meaning, purpose, self-love and happy relationships – seek and find a trusted way to question themselves and find out who they really are and what their authentic path is, leading to genuine answers and clarity. First, you must admit and even embrace the notion that you have a few things left to learn, and then actively aspire to attain that knowledge and wisdom.

In doing so, you may actualize profound happiness – the truest measure of success.”

              – Merilee Kern, MBA

 

As the executive editor of The Luxe List, Merilee Kern is a brand analyst, strategist and futurist. Connect with her at www.TheLuxeList.com. Instagram: www.Instagram.com/LuxeListReviews. Twitter: www.Twitter.com/LuxeListEditor. Facebook: www.Facebook.com/TheLuxeList. LinkedIN: www.LinkedIn.com/in/MerileeKern

Posted: Dec 3, 2019

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