The invisible risk of being a high achiever

In my role as executive coach I come across many successful people, high achievers, people that excelled at school, always in the top set, good exam grades, sporting accomplishments, a good career. No surprise that high achievers have a strong motivation to achieve, they gain gratification from success and are willing to put in intense effort to achieve their goals. They live for the challenge.

However as they have always done well, high achievers and perfectionists, can see anything other than succeeding as a failure. Such binary, black-and-white thinking can be really unhelpful. Setbacks or even temporary lack of success is seen as failure.

The pressure that this group of people place on themselves to do well and the pressure of others expectations, is so great, it can be crippling. The bar is set high. Coming in below the bar is seen as failure or weakness. High achievers can fear failure or think that they’re a bad person if they make mistakes or that people won’t like them if they’re not in the top spot.

It’s a fact that it is impossible to keep everyone happy all the time. It’s also impossible to give 100%, achieving top spot, all the time. Yet high achievers and perfectionists strive for this goal. Being able to embrace mistakes, adversity, tough times, failures, challenges or setbacks is a key skill in developing resilience.

Dr Carol Dweck coined the terms “fixed mindset” and “growth mindset” to shape her understanding of learning. Dweck, in her research, noticed some students were devastated by even the smallest set back, whilst others rebounded. She felt the underlying beliefs that people hold about learning and intelligence are crucial.

If you recongise bits of yourself in this blog and are wondering how you can ease up, still achieve great results but without the agony of being a perfectionist, get in touch to explore how you can change your mindset. Being ambitious, dedicated and successful does not have to come at such a high price.