For many successful leaders, being driven, looking for the next idea or connection or lead and pushing themselves and their team to the next outcome or goal probably sounds familiar.  After all, to achieve the next accolade, reach that stretch objective, to find a competitive advantage is what business is all about.  And what can be even better than being noted publicly for those achievements, as we all know how powerful praise can be.

So, most of you may be saying to yourself, ‘so we know all this, what’s the real issue here?’ The issue is when our ‘personal drivers’ those wonderful strengths and values that help motivate and inspire us and act as our inner compass on who we want to be, and what we want to achieve, get hijacked by our inner Saboteur (inner critic) and turn being ‘driven’ into ‘driving us mad.’

A coaching client with a strong push to achieve, shared how they typically were the one who would take the lead in any project even if they were not the designated person in charge.  They found that others were just too slow, weren’t as efficient as they were, and when it came to deadlines or objective setting – well, they just didn’t seem to exist, causing immense frustration for them and the team.  So, for them the only solution was to ‘step in’, be one of the first to speak, come up with ideas, to set the pace for the group.  The result was the others quickly learnt to sit back as they let them get on with it.  The projects invariably faltered as my client was taking on too much, setting a too demanding pace and they quickly got disheartened and started looking for ways out of this disaster project.  They used to blame the others in the group for the failure, never themselves.

Once they recognised that they were being hijacked by their Hyper Achiever, they began to realise that actually what they were bringing into the group wasn’t motivation but stress, it wasn’t setting an inspiring pace but creating anxiety, and it wasn’t about being part of a team but about self-validation that was based on wanting to be the best.

Our Hyper Achiever Saboteur can be very subtle and distorts our reality by telling us things like

  • If you don’t make that phone call today or attend that networking meeting, then someone else will meet ‘that great client’ who is just waiting to be found.
  • If I can’t make this be the best thing possible, then why try.
  • If I’m not going to be the leading expert, the best person, the winner in this thing – then what’s the stretch for me, so I won’t bother.
  • I can do and be anything I want.
  • I love to win!  The sense of achievement is really important to me.
  • I’ve got to be seen to be successful by others.

I can hear you saying more loudly this time, ‘and what’s wrong with that – we all need a bit of a push now and again’.  Yes. motivation is exactly what we want – but we want the right kind of motivation.

It can take a while for people to separate our Sage voice (inner coach) from our Saboteur voice (inner critic), however it’s easy to notice how they feel different in our bodies.

When we are being positively motivated, we may feel a lightness, a joy, an ease and flow in what we are doing, we may feel our body relaxed and raring to go. Compare that with times when we are negatively pushed, when we feel the task is heavy, we can feel the tension in our shoulders, or that pit-of-the-stomach flip, we may feel anxious, and our breathing gets stuck in our throats or heavy in our chest.

In other words, our brain is moving from a positive emotional state to a negative one where in many ways our cognitive function shuts down as it resorts to its survival state of ‘fight, flight or freeze.  When we are being pushed by our Saboteur, we stop all the wonderful brain function of empathy, curiosity, creativity, planning, decision making and discerning action.

One of the common negative traits of our Hyper Achiever Saboteur is FOMO – Fear of Missing Out.  Take a moment and come up with at least 5 things you’ve done in the past week or so that was being pushed by this Fear of Missing Out.  It could be taking your lap-top on holiday, saying yes to an event when you really wanted to say no, working later than you had planned as you’d not met that self-imposed milestone, reading the latest leadership best seller book any spare moment you have.  I’m sure you’ve got some even better examples than my personal ones.

So, let’s imagine being motivated by JOMO – Joy of Missing Out instead.  Looking for the positive, the joy, the gift, the opportunity of leaving your laptop at home, not saying yes, stopping when you feel tired etc.  What happiness or joy or wellbeing can you find instead?  So, go back to your list of 5 FOMO activities and rewrite them as if you’d not been driven to do them and instead looked for the joy in not doing them – what difference does that make?

As someone who has a strong Hyper Achiever, (my colleagues can testify to that), I’ve learnt to find the joy in not doing, in being more spontaneous, in chill-axing more and actually investing time in myself and my family than ever before.

So the next time you notice your FOMO, instead turn it around and look for your JOMO and move from that negative mindset to a positive one.  Let me know how you get on, as I’d love to share in your successes.

And if you are not sure if Hyper Achiever is your strongest Saboteur, why not take the free online test.  Or get in touch and arrange a free one to one coaching session and I’ll help you identify your key Saboteur voices.