In our culture that values the "stuff" we can see and measure, like how many awards, titles, fancy cars, and you know, fill in the rest of the goodies that map success, we often forget to factor in the price of well-being and rich relationships.
Look, don't get me wrong. There are plenty of folks who have closets filled with great clothes and still have great friends and families. Yet, sometimes we really do have to stop and reassess when enough is enough.
Too much of anything can become toxic, even oxygen.
Most adult super achievers were hell-bent as kids on making their parents and teachers proud of them. They needed the extra kudos to feel real. There was often an empty place inside that could only be filled with praise and recognition. Let's look at the plus side of striving for first place, the A's only report card, being the best and the brightest:
- More business options: You get to choose from lots of work possibilities, be it your own start up to moving into the C-suite early in your career.
- More worldly adventures: You get invited to be a speaker at amazing events on many continents.
- More contacts: You are called upon by important others to share your ideas, and they come to you for discussion and debate.
- More framed certificates and awards: You can fill a long wall with degrees, certificates and photos of you shaking hands with other super achievers.
- More determination: You can stay the course and never give up till the race, physical or mental is won.
There is a lot to add to this list that has the glint of gold, of a job well done, of the kind of satisfaction that makes you stand straighter as you hear the applause. It is great to achieve and be at the front of the line of a life well lived.
Yet, everything in life is a matter of get and give, a matter of light and dark, every bright light can also cast a dark shadow. Here are some of the cons of striving to be the best:
- Less independence: You have so much depending on you that it is hard to just drop everything to go off, be spontaneous and smell the roses.
- Less relationship time: Every minute is accounted for and often you have to miss the unscheduled delights with family and friends.
- Less inner time: You are always on call and taking the time to explore and your inner world is put on hold till later, always till later.
- Less room for messing up: Failure is not an option, ever, because you are being evaluated and judged with every move you make.
- Less time to chill: Burnout is always lurking just around the corner and sadly, when it comes, it lands you face down on the mat with no resources to rebound quickly.
I would like to suggest that striving for excellence is the best, yes, I am using the word best here, again, that 'striving for excellence' is the best replacement category for 'super achiever.'
When you strive for excellence you can "let it go." You can make mistakes and not feel bruised and beaten. You can come in second, or third or even last and still get joy from the race.
Changing from a super achiever to an excellence achiever means growing and learning from every experience. It also gives room to become a creative collaborator because you are no longer threatened by those around you who may get in front of you.
As a recovering super achiever I look back on so many memories with the sadness of "coulda, shoulda, woulda." Take the time to reevaluate your need for being the best. Who are you pleasing? What are the benefits? Can you still get to the top of your career ladder with less obsessiveness?
And, learn from me. Each experience creates memories. Invest in meaningful experiences that create memories of delight. That is the route from being obsessive or compulsive, needing to be the best.
Stop, think and choose. Excellence trumps super achieving every time.