If you, like many athletes, start each day feeling like there’s a blank slate in front of you that needs to be filled with accomplishments, you’re likely an achiever – the personality theme that Clifton Strengthsfinder defines as a person who begins every day “at zero” and feels compelled to tick off accomplishments to feel a sense of self-worth. Sound familiar? Read on.
While having an achiever personality can be amazing – just think of everything you’re able to accomplish before the average person rolls out of bed in the morning – it can also be difficult to stay balanced and energized with so much going on. Consider this: achievers tend to be laser focused on winning. Nothing wrong with that, right? Well, no, but be careful.
When wanting to win turns into being afraid to fail, it’s easy to go from super successful to stressed out and overwhelmed. When my clients experience feelings of self-criticism, fear and overwhelm, there are a few steps that I recommend to help get them back on track. If you feel a burning desire to keep accomplishing more, it may be time for you to take a break and apply these techniques to get yourself back in balance.
1. Acknowledge Your Successes
Have you ticked something big off your to-do list? Moved one step closer to an important goal? Hit a major milestone? What are you waiting for? Go ahead and celebrate! Indulge in that treat you’ve been putting off, carve out some time to have fun with a friend, or do whatever makes you happy. Rewarding yourself for being awesome feels really good, and it’s a great way to replenish your energy for the next win.
2. Give Yourself (and Everyone Else) a Break
Sure, you know how to do it better, faster, smarter (whatever “it” is), but is it making you happy to go through life as the real-life version of Judge Judy? Is criticizing everyone making you better? A wise yogi once gave me great advice: “keep your eyes on your own mat.” Meaning, who cares what everyone else is doing? Stop comparing yourself to friends, teammates, neighbors, celebrities or anyone else, and say focused on the one person you can control: you. Speaking of which, it’s also time to give your inner critic a vacation. Maybe you wish you were taller or had shinier hair; maybe you got a B+ when you wanted an A+; or maybe you were accepted into a state school instead of Yale. News flash: life can be disappointing. What if, instead of beating yourself up when things don’t turn out as planned, you choose to treat yourself with compassion? What if you hung up your judge’s robes and simply focused on being grateful for what's going well? I dare you to keep a journal of your thoughts for one full day and see what the self-talk in your head is saying. Are you kind to yourself when things go wrong? Are you forgiving of other people's mistakes? Being aware of your thoughts is a powerful way to gain awareness of how you view yourself and others. And, as they say, knowledge is power.
3. Be Mindful of Your Motivation
Take a minute now and ask yourself why you want to achieve what’s on your current list of goals. I’m not asking what you want to achieve or how fabulous you think your life will be when you’ve achieved it, I’m asking about the motivation behind your need to achieve. Do you know what it is? Maybe you’re trying to prove something? If so, what? To whom? Does wanting to feel like you’re “enough” motivate you? If so, where does that feeling of not being enough come from? As Brené Brown reminds us, to be truly happy we need to engage with the world from a place of worthiness. Whatever your motivation is, digging in to figure out the "why" can set you free to make better decisions and create goals that not only feel great but are good for you.
4. Talk it Out
This one isn’t just for achievers, but it sure will benefit you. It doesn’t matter if you’re shy and reserved or a chatty Kathy; telling someone what’s on your mind can take the weight of the world off your shoulders and help you gain a new perspective on whatever you’re dealing with. Whether it’s a parent, friend, neighbor, coach or mentor, choose someone that you can trust to lend a compassionate ear to your worries and give you non-judgmental feedback. Depending what’s on your mind, you may even benefit from speaking to a counselor. Either way, getting things off your chest by talking to someone can rewire your brain, relieve a ton of stress, help you gain perspective and even hold you accountable for taking positive action. Who couldn’t use more of that?
As you think about what it means to take good care of your achiever self, remember that you have a special gift that will bring you a lifetime of happiness and success if you regularly practice positive self-care.
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Eva Bart-Williams is a mental performance coach with a private practice helping individuals and teams achieve big goals. Eva is also CBW Soccer Elite’s head of operations, where she helps athletes embrace the challenges of high-level competition and advises families on the college soccer recruitment process. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.