I was talking to a client the other day on the phone and it happened again. The same thing that has happened to me and to practically every woman I have ever mentored. I call it "Achievers Amnesia." (perhaps you have it too?)
After three minutes of celebrating all of the amazing things she had accomplished since our last session -- launching her first blog, leading circles of women, creating financial abundance -- the infamous achievement junkie words, "Yeah, but I haven't yet..." came flying out of her mouth and she began listing the litany of things she had not yet accomplished.
With each "Yeah, but I haven't..." and "Yeah, but I need to...," the pressure mounted. And like every achievement junkie I have ever witnessed, including yours truly, all the joy, success and satisfaction she had been feeling moments before evaporated. Leading to the all-to-familiar feelings of exhaustion and overwhelm as she fell under the shadow of the gigantic new mountain she had put in front of herself to climb.
There are a lot of us recovering achievement junkies out there in the world. Maybe you are one too? Here are a few of the signs that you are part of our club. Do you:
- Set really high goals for yourself and keep moving the bar higher -- so just as you are about to reach a goal, you flip the bar higher, and feel like you failed or didn't hit your mark?
- Think you have to push and work hard to make stuff happen -- so you over work and over effort?
- Work a lot or are always busy, and have a hard time resting and relaxing -- rest sounds good but it doesn't feel very productive?
- Often feel like you have not gotten 'there' yet -- and then pressure yourself to be further ahead?
- Have a hard time celebrating or feeling all you have accomplished -- for more than a few hours anyway?
- Achieve one thing -- a promotion, more money, a degree, a milestone -- and immediately go on to the next thing -- You are always pursuing something?
- Feel dissatisfied -- you live like a marathon runner who just keeps running marathon after marathon, never quite reaching a finish line where you can finally declare victory?
- Focus a lot on the future -- you focus on things you haven't yet achieved or accomplished, instead of organically growing and tending what you've already birthed?
What would we do in this club?
It would be a club where you could go and be treated for 'Achievers Amnesia' -- the condition of only seeing what you haven't done, unable to acknowledge and feel what you have accomplished. So you always feel pressured to do more, accomplish more, move onto the next goal. Sound familiar?
You'd be forced to talk about the things you had already done until you could feel them in your bones.
You'd be put on probation, forced to slow down, take space for yourself and revel in your achievements, forbidden to climb the next mountain until you were replenished and rested.
You'd be put on strict orders to do things only for sheer joy -- forced to do things for pleasure that were not in any way productive (can you imagine just doing things for fun!)
You'd learn to love just sitting still, taking in the view from the mountain top, and learn to move more mindfully before you just set out to conquer the next mountain (making you wiser and ultimately more effective.)
You'd learn to love the process and journey to reaching a goal, instead of only seeing and pushing to the goal and so missing the ride.
You'd be not only a great achiever, you'd also become an awesome, masterful, happy receiver.
As a recovering achievement junkie this sounds divine to me! How about you?
Don't get me wrong. I love being an achiever. It's the junkie part that I now choose to live without.
I'd much rather be patient with myself vs. pressure myself.
I'd much rather be a replenished receiver than a relentless driver.
Think about it.
You have enough stress from outside forces that you don't need to add more stress from yourself!
As it turns out, one of the great things about being an achiever is that your 80% is like most people's 120%. So you can give less effort and still be above average.
When I suggest this new operating equation to other achievers, they usually freak out, because deep inside, in the places we'd rather not look, there are parts of ourselves that we are deathly afraid to deal with - so we keep ourselves busy doing, working and focusing on new goals instead.
These parts left untended, subconsciously make you believe -- mistakenly -- that if you stop pushing yourself to achieve more, if you stop working so hard, you will become a slacker and fall behind.
Which of course is impossible. Unless you burn yourself out completely, and you simply cannot achieve anymore -- it is impossible for you to become a slacker. Once an achiever, always an achiever, but not always a junkie or addict.
For the past seven years I have been in self-created, self-imposed 'achievement recovery' and I have had more impact not less -- three published books, reached and taught tens of thousands of women, traveled the world. But I had to learn to do my life a different way. And I'm not an outlier -- I've taken many women through to find freedom from the achievement addiction.
One of the hardest and most profound paths to my freedom was having to learn the why behind why drove myself so hard.
As I dug deeper within, I found my "Inner Achievement Junkie." Her name is Move the Bar Belinda. She is like an inner mean girl that when I was younger drove to me achieve so I wouldn't get stuck in the small minded city I grew up in, or end up a teenage mother like my two best friends. But as I became an adult and the threat of getting stuck was no longer, this inner force within me didn't stop pushing, she became an inner bully that 20 years later kept pushing me to keep running and climbing.
Eventually, as I learned to understand and love this part of me, and created a relationship with it, I reformed this inner mean girl by healing the parts inside of me that were afraid of being left behind, that had been conditioned to need external recognition and that had learned to attach my self worth to external milestones.
I am still in recovery, and have to watch myself during times of high stress and stretch - like with the release of my new book about my inner achievement junkie and my other inner mean girls.
But knowing -- and trusting -- that I don't have to push myself so hard, that I just naturally will achieve and excel without exhausting myself, has made me happier, healthier and more whole, and for that I am grateful.
I love my recovering achievers club -- you and your Inner Achievement Junkie are invited any time!