People who are motivated to achieve their best possible performance always find a way to make it happen. 

No matter how difficult situations become, some people just persevere. Overcoming all obstacles, they stop at nothing to pursue perfection

But what happens when the obstacle is within?

Let me tell you a story. 

I once worked with a client that I'll call Emily, who was brilliant. And I mean it--she graduated from one of the most prestigious academic institutions in the US and was immediately identified as a rising star in her company. 

Emily had initiative. She had drive, determination, and all of the skills required to succeed. But she also had one pesky thing that wouldn't go away: anxiety.

Despite the optimism she inspired in her supervisors, Emily identified as a pessimist. She had an overactive mind that just wouldn't shut off--one that kept her up at night thinking about all of the small details that no one else even noticed. She would often stay up late with an upset stomach working long hours into the night. 

And while this was her gift--finding and solving problems that others couldn't yet perceive--it was also her curse.

This pesky anxiety occasionally culminated in panic attacks and self-sabotage due to her self-doubt and unrelenting expectations for exceptional performance. While she had all of the tools and natural ability--achieving much more than her friends and family could have expected--she was falling short of her potential and she knew it. 

In our first session, she told me that I would fail too. That no matter what I did, it probably wouldn't work. Because she either expected to be 100% better or not at all. And it was more likely that she would not be cured from our work.

And you know what? She was right.

For the first two months of our work together it felt like I was failing. I was incredibly frustrated. I felt like no matter what I did, it was never good enough. 

No matter what brilliant insight I'd share, no matter what meditation or relaxation technique I'd offer, none of them were good enough for her to even acknowledge, let alone find useful. 

Her rejection and lack of acknowledgement made me feel anxious to try anything else. I felt stuck, pessimistic about our work, and had a knot in my stomach each time we met. 

But then, something magical happened: we had a major disagreement.

She shared how frustrated she was with me. How much I failed her in certain moments. She cried. And then I described how upset I was that no matter what I did, it never felt like enough. That all I wanted was to help her.

And in that space--of honesty, transparency, and mutual vulnerability--we found connection. Authentic, direct, and real. That was the moment we needed, and from that point forward we started making incredible progress.

Emily not only ended up experiencing less anxiety, but she also developed more realistic expectations for herself and our work together. She accepted that if she was only 50% better by the time our work ended, that would result in significantly more happiness and productivity. 

She started speaking up and taking more initiative at work. She set better boundaries and stopped taking on too many projects simultaneously. She showed up as the best version of herself at work and maintained a healthy sense of self outside of it too. 

We ended our successful and rewarding work together after eight months. 

And what I learned in this process changed me forever. Because our work together showed me that everything is connected--the personal and professional, her feelings and my feelings--all of it was linked.

Early in our work, I felt the way Emily did on a daily basis. While she walked around at her job feeling inadequate, anxious, and frustrated that she wasn't performing at her best, I felt that way during our sessions.

Emily's life didn't just change in my office, it also improved at her work--her personal growth had a major impact on her professional performance. Because both were and are connected.

So if you want to address work performance, work on your personal growth first. 

Doing so will not only raise your floor, but also expand your ceiling. And in that process of self-development you will move beyond your limitations to discover something inspiring: your true potential. 

Published on: Jul 13, 2018