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There's Irony in that Achievement

I have been struggling at work. I can’t explain what is wrong and I can’t figure out how to fix it. In May’s Harvard Business Review Thomas J. DeLong, a professor at Harvard Business School, and Sara DeLong, his daughter and a psychiatrist in San Francisco, discuss how being a high achiever can eventually get in your way. They discuss plateauing and the reluctance to turn to anyone for help.

They list several “curses” of the high achiever. Now, let me tell you, these curses are like a calling card for the feedback I have received.

  • The fact that achievers can get so caught up in a task that they don’t communicate everything with colleagues. CHECK
  • Failure to distinguish between the urgent and the merely important. YEP, USED TO DO THAT
  • Caring intensely about how others view their work, but ignore the positive and obsess over criticism. I THINK THEY ARE TALKING DIRECTLY TO ME

And then there were two that I literally said “well that explains it.”

  • The passion for work creates intense highs that give way to crippling lows. For achievers, it’s a fine line between triumph and agony.
  • Being guilt-ridden, not matter how much they accomplish they still feel like they aren’t doing enough.

What the article didn’t tell me is how to fix it. They express the need to be vulnerable and ask for help, but at what point should you be doing it on your own? Or is that the whole point, you shouldn’t be.

The authors note: “Moving your A game to a new level or in a new direction takes humility, it takes practice, and it takes patience (not necessarily your strong suit).”

And again I ask myself, am I being impatient? Are the people around me impatient due to their high achiever brains?

At this point it isn’t about a promotion or more responsibility. It is about doing the job I am assigned to do with my A game intact.  I just wish I could figure out the easy answer and get back on track.


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