Lessons on Nourishing the Need to Achieve

For high achievers, success is a function of individual motivation and effort. Life to us is about putting in what we want to get back. The problem is that reality doesn’t always work like that.

Photo by David Billings on Unsplash

Until I started coaching professionally, I didn’t realize that the need for achievement is a real thing for some of us. For most of my life it’s just been an offhand remark some people make about the level of doing-ness I bring to the way I choose to live.

Some of us just feel alive doing more and pushing the limits of what we can possibly do — and that’s okay.

Over the years, I’ve learned how to value and nourish that need in myself and in many of my clients. Here are a few tips I’ve picked up to help high achievers to find their rhythm and to maximize their experiences of it.

This first one is something a lot of us eventually figure out intuitively, but may not have named before now. Contrary to popular belief, achievement isn’t just another way of saying “winning” (although there’s certainly overlap).

Achievement is more tangible. It’s the sweat on your shirt, the trophy, the portfolio, the record — the external validation of success and the internal pride in accomplishing it. Specific goals with measurable ends make us feel achievement. Compare the thrill you feel reading the goals “become a successful writer” vs. “make $1,000 through blogging.” The second one activates the strategic brain that makes high achievers tick.

Of the lessons I’ve listed here, this is perhaps the most difficult. For high achievers, success is a function of individual motivation and effort. Life to us is about putting in what we want to get back. The problem is that reality doesn’t always work like that. We have to accept that (I’m reminding myself here too). We can’t bend reality, but we can push the human experience of it. Stay mortal, wild man.

For high achievers in the media spotlight, this is fairly easy. But for the rest of us, it’s something we need to make time to do ourselves. Allow yourself to collect and treasure souvenirs. Start a blog. Keep a journal. Publish a memoir. Take a camera with you on your adventures. Turn it into a supplementary skill you want to develop.

The thing about high achievers is that we don’t just avoid low-risk choices, we tend to avoid outlandish high-risk choices as well. The sweet spot to find is the area right on the edge of our existing skill sets and skills we can stretch into if we really push their limits. Everything we do there presents an engaging challenge, and expands the range or intensity of what we achieve — that’s where we thrive.

Last here is another difficult lesson. Part of valuing achievement is that we want to be recognized. We want our hard work and accomplishments to be acknowledged, maybe even celebrated.

A lot of people, especially our loved ones, might misinterpret this as an unhealthy level of egoism or vanity (and truthfully, sometimes it can be). For healthy high achievers, it’s about the personal triumphs though, not celebrity. We strive to improve and intensify. We falter when our personal empowerment is eclipsed by the expectations of others, positive or negative. We have to learn how to shield ourselves from both.

Society sometimes views the needs of high achievers as trivial or a mere personality quirk to be repressed or distracted by focusing on less challenging activities. It’s no wonder that so many of us choose paths that allow us greater independence to adventure and achieve on our own then.

Our passions and drive are worth exploring — but, knowing our type, I’m sure that’s something on which you’ve already decided to take the risk.

Got another lesson to add? Tell us about it in the comments.

nature boy // occasional wild man // photographer // compulsive writer // cat dad // sign-up for my journal WILD//LIFE at jozua.substack.com

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