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  • Kate Gigax

The High Achievers Are Not OK

Let’s face it, right now it’s a challenge to determine what success looks like in the current environment, both at work or in our personal lives. Between the election coma and our anticipation of the next phase of COVID-19, we don’t have clarity on what’s coming next. The goals we started 2020 with have shifted and, for many, it’s unclear what to aim for. This level of ambiguity is challenging for everyone, but particularly high achievers. 


As high achievers, we have built our empires on two primary things: 


  1. Clarity: tell me what to aim for and I will run through walls to get there

  2. Outcome: what is the measure of success and I’ll meet it--or beat it 


This has served us well in school, in our careers and in our personal lives. So long as we have those two things, we will get it done.


In the current landscape, we are lacking the very thing we need to drive action. We don’t have clarity on what’s coming next or where to focus--whether that is when we will return to work, organizational focus, or even clear personal priorities.  We don’t know what our next year will look like. The pandemic has taken everything we know about how to succeed and turned it on its head. What we planned is changing and it no longer makes sense to fixate on outcomes like we used to. It's unclear where to most effectively channel our energy.


Luckily, as high achievers, we know how to adapt. We know how to change to be successful. 


Everyday I talk to clients who are feeling stuck, but lucky, and are struggling with this dichotomy. They are asking themselves questions like:


“What are we even doing?”

“Am I focusing on the right thing?”

“Does this even matter?”


In order to not only survive, but thrive throughout this volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous time, we need to shift our frame of thinking away from an outcome-based mindset to a process-based one. 

Instead of fighting the ambiguity by acting as if we have answers only to have them change, we need to make peace with ambiguity and shift our focus to what we can control.  


Measuring success based on outcomes is what has gotten high achievers to where we are today. But not only trusting, but embracing the process will get you where you need to be in this moment. Here’s how you can create a goal-setting strategy that works for you right now:


A process goal is your moment-to-moment or day-to-day goal for what you want to achieve, how you want to be, or how you want to show up.


Instead of thinking, ‘I want to be in a new job in the next 12 months,’ (which is an outcome goal) focus on the process, ‘I’m going to attend that networking event, I’m going to update my profile, I’m going to start writing a blog.’ (You don’t need to do all of these - starting with just one will do!) This is the process that would naturally lead you to the outcome, but it gives you something to measure in the interim, because really, who knows what will be happening in the next 12 months. But we can’t let all the uncertainty that we can’t control get in our way of being successful.


By measuring success based on the process, not the outcome, we shift how we feel successful.


They say Rome wasn’t built in a day, and your success won’t be either. 


I recently had a client who went through a huge life change and wasn’t sure what the future held for her either personally or professionally. We started by bringing it back to the basics and started rebuilding her empire brick-by-brick, one day at a time. She focused on her values and her well-being.  At the end of the day, she got out her measuring stick (as we do) to focus less on how much she got done but rather the extent to which she was kind, authentic, connected with people who gave her energy, got enough sleep and practiced mindfulness. Instead of striving to hit her next number, she simply asked herself whether she was doing the basics and doing them well.  Bringing it back to the basics helped her regain the clarity of what she wanted so her high achieving instincts could kick in and support her movement toward it.


Showing up the way you want to show up, doing the things you want to do and knowing what you value are the keys to embracing the process and feeling successful when it’s otherwise difficult to do so. 


What does getting back to basics look like for you?  How can you align yourself to the process instead of being beholden to the outcome?



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