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 “how to overachieve” and the web will dutifully deliver over 355,000 resources to help urge you on.
We’ve surrendered ourselves to overachievement in pursuit of business and career success. Not just ordinary success, but the kind that exceeds expectations, thanks to a herculean effort. Many of us are working to extremes in order to achieve and maintain that lifestyle. However, we can miss the mark—despite our best efforts. “This often happens because [people are] aiming for achievements instead of a deeper understanding of themselves and of what they want,” says Keren Eldad, a certified business coach and keynote speaker.
“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 I have coined the ‘Superstar Paradox,’” Eldad says. “The paradox is when pursuing the illusory things we think we want actually produces undesirable results like strain to keep up low self-worth and general unhappiness—and those consequences actually impede our ability to attain what we want. It can become an exhausting and hugely debilitating vicious circle.”
“It’s time to stop living life for achievements, money, accolades and the validation of other people. 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.”
We asked Eldad to share what she’s learned about overachieving and success, and how not to let your pursuit of advancement blind you to what you already have.
Reframe your success story. Overachievers often believe that success only comes from power, money or status. Yes, those things are important benchmarks for career measurement, but being successful in life overall should be the true Holy Grail. So, if you are an 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 isn’t proving as worthwhile as it can and should be. To initiate needed change, be brave enough to reframe your personal story, from cover to cover. Life isn’t meant to be one-dimensional or even work-centred, so 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. Sure, start with career goals to get the juices flowing, as that might come most easily, but then do separate exercises for as many other areas of your life that you can break down. This can include 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. Life is abundant. You’ll soon see that life fulfillment means—and needs—so much more than what happens on the work front. It can be a means to an end, but there’s much in between. Once you start mapping it all out, 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—know what success “looks” like for each facet of your one and only life and commit (for real) 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 or benchmark of success to be. Once achieved, it’s instinctive to want to bask in that “place,” both emotional and physical. After all, you worked to extremes to get there. 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 overachievers suffer the “can’t rant” internal dialogue. Take heed that “can’t” usually is not a real thing. From “I can’t afford to do what I really want” to “I can’t start over now,” this word usually really means “I won’t”…I won’t try, I won’t make it, I won’t have good ideas and on the self-deprecating dialogue goes. Yes, you worked damn hard to earn your current accolades and are pleased with yourself and where you are, but sometimes a hard pivot is needed to get you where you really want to go. The truth is never that you cannot, you just have to get yourself past the “will not.” Resources like talent, money, conditions, time, etc. are often not a genuine end game, but rather merely obstacles and challenges that CAN be overcome with the right amount of ingenuity and chutzpah.
Course-correct crippling self-constructs. A common obstacle to realizing genuine happiness is our 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 external conditions being met (i.e., what they are achieving) and how they then “rank” against the others in their society. Self-acceptance, which is a critical factor in genuine happiness and authenticity, is founded on other key self-constructs like self-compassion—a person’s ability to forgive them self 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.
Pray for a sh*tstorm! If you didn’t buy all the above points yet and think, “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! 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.
A graduate of the London School of Economics, Keren Eldad is an adviser to industry powerhouses like Christian Dior/LVMH, Beyond Capital, Luxxotica, Van Cleef & Arpels, YPO, IWC. Having served in the Israeli army and emerging into coaching from crisis counselling, Eldad believes in service as a way of life, and comes in focused on adding value and making things better and easier in yours. As a coach, she is accredited by the ICF, WCI and TTI Insights (ACC, CPC, CEC , C.P.M.A., C.P.B.A., C.P.T.A.), and is a top-level Crisis Counselor with Crisis Text Line.