I am a recovering “Hyper-Achiever.”
Shirzad Chamine, author of Positive Intelligence, defines “the Hyper-Achiever” this way: Highly focused on external success, leading to unsustainable workaholic tendencies and loss of touch with deeper emotional and relationship needs.”
Hyper-Achievers tend to “shun feelings” and may “feel empty and depressed inside, but don’t linger there.” They “don’t like dwelling in feelings for too long” as they are a distraction from achieving goals.
I’ve observed that there is an emotion that surfaces repeatedly for Hyper-Achievers: Overwhelm. Sure, folks like us tend to bounce out of overwhelm by plunging into the nearest achievable goal we can find. The paradox is that this reflexive, unconscious, default tendency to achieve for the sake of achieving often leads to a return to overwhelm. And, overwhelm results in NOT achieving goals.
Our very belief that dwelling in our feelings distracts us from our goals creates a powerful emotion that distracts us from our goals!
Here are a few tips to help you break the achievement-overwhelm cycle and bring some peace and joy into your life. Disclaimer: If you are a Hyper-Achiever, the following is some tough love.
Did you just cringe at the words “peace and joy?” Be honest with yourself. Are “peace and joy” something to be found over the achievement rainbow? How’s that journey going?
Ready to try a different path?
First, the next time you start feeling overwhelmed, don’t try to achieve anything. Take 15 minutes (I know there is so much you could be getting done!) and notice what it’s like to feel overwhelmed. Simply notice. Notice your breath, how your body feels, what you see, hear, smell. Notice your thoughts and let them go. Just be with the overwhelmed feeling without trying to do anything to fix it. Notice how you feel after 15 minutes. If you’re feeling a bit more peaceful, that’s ok!! Purposeful, as opposed to knee-jerk, goal achievement that doesn’t end in overwhelm is much more likely from this space.
Next, connect to what’s important to you. What’s the bigger-picture reason you are running around trying to get all of these things done anyway? Write it down. Say what you write down out loud. Imagine you’ve achieved that. Notice how that feels.
Now, start writing down your “to-do’s.” Organize these tasks into categories that make sense to you. Be sure to include a “delegate” and “ask for help” category. Don’t let that feeling that you should be able to “do it all” stop you.
Finally, what on your list is most connected to achieving your bigger picture purpose? Begin there. Set aside a chunk of time for the sole purpose of working on that.
At the end of that time, notice how you feel. Chances are you won’t be feeling overwhelmed.
Lastly, ask yourself, “What would be possible from achieving from this purposeful space more often?
You are deeply committed to each other. You both want this relationship, AND you have this feeling that there’s much more to your story as a couple. There are new chapters waiting to be written. New chapters waiting…with their empty pages.
So, how do you start filling those empty pages? The winter vacation to Cancun was fun. The new kitchen sure looks sharp. I know let’s get a dog or a cat or a bunny or…
And, the new pages to the new story remain empty. You still have that same gnawing feeling that there must be something more, that your relationship is stuck, flat, or not reaching its full potential. Things are pretty good, and you feel they could be much better.
Sure, traveling to far-off places, creating a beautiful home, and sharing the love of a pet could be part of the new story for your relationship. The problem is, without connection to a sense of shared values, these are just places to go and things to do.
Without frequently checking in with one another about what matters most, relationships can become like a ship a at sea without a rudder, randomly landing here or there and not really getting anywhere. Now, if your shared values include getting lost at sea, you can stop reading.
If not, consider putting a rudder on your ship before setting off to write the next chapter of your relationship story. You might be saying, “Yeah, but, we’ve been together a long time – surely I know what’s important to my partner.”
Do you? Really?
When was the last time you slowed down enough to check? How much time have you spent recently mining your relationship for shared values?
Coming together around a set of core values, the things that matter most to you, is the first step in breathing new life into a relationship, one filled with shared meaning and purpose. Once you put the rudder on the ship (shared values) and chart your destination on the map (shared vision – the subject of our next column), the places you choose to go and things you choose to do will inspire, literally “breathe new life into,” your relationship.
Ready to make this real?
Try this. Set aside about thirty minutes to be with each other uninterrupted. (If the thought of thirty minutes of uninterrupted time to focus solely on each other makes you want to run and hide, catch a ballgame or go shopping – well – you should probably go do one of those things instead.)
Still with me?
Good. For the next 30 minutes, talk to each other about what matters most to you for both yourself and your relationship moving forward. Is it adventure? Health? Intimacy? Romance? Family? Beauty? Creativity? Contribution? Connection? Risk-Taking?
As you listen, try not to judge. Be wildly curious! Ask questions to deepen your understanding. Remember, this is a time for discovery. Each of you gets to have the values that are important to you.
Talk to each other about anything new or surprising you have learned. What values came alive that you haven’t seen for quite some time in your partner? What values offer opportunity for shared growth and experiences?
After you’ve had time to listen, share and learn, take a few minutes to sense how you are feeling about each other. There’s nothing to do here except notice and talk to your partner about what you’re feeling.
At the end of this dedicated time together, celebrate!! You have completed the first chapter of the new story for your relationship.
Bravo! We’d love to hear how things went for you.
Howard Stanten MPT, CPCC, PCC is an Executive Leadership, Professional