Overachievers, This Is for You.

There’s a fine line between doing your best work and succeeding meaningfully versus being an overachiever.

At first glance, overachieving doesn’t seem like a negative thing. It can bring the best out of a person and cultivate a diligent mindset, and who doesn’t love someone who would go the extra mile? Not to mention the recognition and personal fulfilment that comes with the accomplishments.

But the truth is, we’ve been conditioned to believe that in order to overachieve, we must overdo. And overdoing can lead to an overload, making the concept of overachieving much less attractive.

Whether you are an overachiever or simply a motivated individual driven by nothing more than the desire to do well, what is important is not to let the behaviour manifest into an addiction.

Addiction to Busyness

Overachieving can become an addiction. Like all cravings, we develop a tolerance for them over time. What used to be an impressive effort now feels mediocre to you, leaving you to think that you are not accomplishing enough and need to do more.

You’re puzzled why others tell you that you are taking on too much because you feel like you’re never doing enough. You’d go as far as sacrificing sleep to study more, eating while working on the computer, ignoring a full bladder to finish an assignment in a single sitting, and filling the only free hour you have in your day with more responsibilities.

Emotionally disconnected from the reality that you are under strain, you wear “busyness” like a badge of honour. You measure your worth by the level of your productivity. As a result, you’ve never been able to slow down as it makes you anxious. 

Addiction to Validation 

Addiction to busyness is one thing. But addiction to gaining the approval of others is something else. As a star performer, you constantly receive compliments and recognition. So used to being in the limelight that you cannot stop achieving because you fear losing your esteemed status. 

You also imagine that others have high expectations of you. “What would they think if I’m not the best this time?”, you ask yourself. So you do what it takes to outperform yourself each time. That’s how vicious insecurities fuel the need to continue being an overachiever, like how a snakebite antidote is made out of its own poison.

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When Limits Push Back

Stress is a significant component of overachievement. And just because you have the capacity to take on the stress and stretch yourself doesn’t mean not having a limit. “The ones who push the limits, discover the limits sometimes push back.” The quote is from a big wave surfing movie, Chasing Mavericks (2012).

Much like elastic bands, when you stretch yourself out too much, you might just snap. And besides snapping at your friends and family for the slightest matter, you might even risk snapping into exhaustion, withdrawal, and depression.

Plug Yourself In

These days we like “smart” stuff: smartphones, smartwatches, smart homes, and even smart baby devices. And we live in a smart city! But we seem to be forgetting a smarter asset: YOU. In tech language, your mind and body are the software and hardware of your precious smart system. 

And if our smartphone battery can run out within the day because of how hard we work it, the same shall apply to us. Smart things need a regular recharge to function at their peak. So, the next time you plug in your phone, use that as a reminder to take a break yourself.

Take Power Breaks

And who says taking a break will cause you to lose out? Guess what: successful people take breaks too. In fact, Winston Churchill, Bill Clinton, Albert Einstein, and Salvador Dali are some of the famous people who swear by their napping rituals to help them fuel their productivity and creativity. 

Success is not about packing as much as possible into your day. It is about maintaining clear-headedness, focusing your energies on the most critical task, and avoiding burnout. And if you can’t ditch that overachiever personality in you, and your definition of taking a break means choosing to climb a high-altitude mountain over lazing on the beach, by all means!

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Dial Back Your Trust Issues

Overachievers tend to believe that the weight of all responsibilities is on their shoulders and that they need to take on everything themselves, or else nothing gets done (or done well enough). But remember, success tastes sweeter when you have people to share it with.

Let others into your life to help you. Believe that they too can be high-performing achievers. Give them space to do things differently than you and trust that they can do them well. Instead of letting their standards drive you insane, take pride in being their mentor and guide them to success. 

Look Out for Another Overachiever

We have various stretch limits and stress capacity. Some have a higher threshold, whilst others snap easily under pressure. It is necessary to admit when you have reached your limit. However, it is not easy for overachieving, resilient minds to realise their limits, especially when they are too “high” on their busyness and validation addiction to notice. 

As it is much easier to spot the burnout warning signs of another overachiever, be that good friend to someone else and look out for them. When you see red flags, tell them that they have reached their limit, pull them out from drowning in their overachieving standards, and invite them to take a chill pill with you.