As a high achiever, it’s easy to get lost in constant improvement, focusing on the next goal or milestone. As a fellow high-achiever, Nicole knows exactly what it’s like to be on the nonstop hamster wheel.
But today, Nicole shares how all of your hyper-achieving undermines one of the most essential and overlooked instruments in your arsenal — your intuition.
In this thought-provoking episode, Nicole breaks down the extreme cost of pursuing goals without taking a deeper look at the underlying motivation behind your desire for achieving goals.
“When we’re in this crazy hyperachieving pattern, we’re trying to also succeed on other people’s terms.”
“When you feel really worthy of taking some bold risks, of trying things that are outside the box, you start to separate your worthiness from your actions. That is when we actually return to and source our own power again.”
“If you’re trying to get into the bigger picture of your life, and you’re really interested in this bigger road map of why anything you’re doing right now matters, you might find that it is so much more possible to get to that result that you’re looking for if you allow yourself to relax.”
“Hyperachievers are in constant action. You’ve got all this stuff dialed, except you’re not taking the aligned action that will make a difference. Aligned action is you actually working less, having more personal time and space, being ambitious and knowing you make an impact, but not feeling like you are overextending yourself along the way.”
Welcome back to the School of Self-Worth. I’m your host, Nicole Tsong, and today I am popping in for a solo episode to talk about something that many high achievers underestimate as an issue, and that is the huge cost of constantly overachieving. This topic was inspired by an upcoming episode with Adele Wang, where she and I dig into the roots of hyperachieving and the idea that we have to, in some way, fix ourselves, and to what end. So today I wanted to unearth how this drive for achievement distracts and blocks us from accessing inner guidance. I will be exploring the four ways hyperachieving undermines your intuition.
Let’s do this!
As a high achiever, it is so easy to get lost in constant improvement, focusing on the next goal or the next milestone. Now, to be totally transparent, I am a huge, huge fan of goals, and when you work with me, we will definitely be tackling some goals, but what we won’t do is set goals from the hyperachieving mindset where you set goals just because you think you’re supposed to, and especially if you are coming from a place where you set goals because you believe that it somehow justifies your existence on the planet. There is a whole lot to unpack there. And what I’ll say is that that kind of relentless pursuit of goals, ‘just because’, has a massive cost, which I’m going to get into today. But first, a little bit of storytime.
I was not a born a high achiever. None of you were, by the way, but I became one very early on. I was a kid who spent my entire childhood trying to achieve more. I’m not sure I really knew what my goals were when I was young, but by high school, it was all about getting into the right college.
So literally every activity and every grade that I got in class was dedicated towards getting to that elusive college goal. Once I did it, once I hit my college goal, I have to say I still didn’t feel like I was doing enough. What I did in college then, is I kept going also in this automatic pilot and going laser deep into achieving there, from taking on leadership positions to making sure I got really good grades because I was convinced that it would get me the best job. Side note: nobody in the real world cares about grades, well, nobody I have ever met does. So once I decided to be a journalist, I had to prove I was good at that particular role. Then I had to prove I was doing the right thing by getting jobs at bigger and bigger newspapers because that was the trajectory of journalism. Even though this whole time, especially when I was a journalist, I was plagued by crushing doubts that I was actually perhaps a terrible writer, an inept reporter and that I should leave this profession immediately. So what did all this achieving do for me? It had me in a constant state of anxiety, like ALL the time.
It had me constantly worrying about my accomplishments and really having my self-worth be connected and tied to what I was achieving. I wanted to win journalism awards or have proof I was totally cool because I was asked to teach yoga at the Easter Egg role at the White House. But the truth is that all of these goals were actually really undermining my ability to listen and sharpen my intuition. It took me many years to understand and learn how exactly to connect to my intuition and then to practice it, to be able to use it to set goals that felt really aligned to who I am as a human. To grow and expand and to feel peaceful in the middle of all of it.
Your intuition is this super amazing resource. And when you go into achieving mode, it actually squashes your intuition. Because the voice that drives achieving, I found, is the one that is always going to tell you that you’re not good enough, that you don’t deserve your success, that you’re the imposter who showed up without really any backing for why you’re there, that this is all just a fluke and that you better work your ass off to succeed again or it will all disappear.
So it’s time, isn’t it, for us to really get into this conversation, because it is already starting. Let’s really dig in here to the four ways that hyperachieving undermines your intuition.
The first thing it does is your hyperachieving is disrupting and dysregulating your nervous system. It is stressful to constantly, always, be on the lookout for what is next and to never be present with what you actually already have. When you’re in hyperachieving, it means you’re working from the moment you wake up, you’re looking at your phone, you’re scrolling right away and you’re texting people and messaging all day to the moment you go to bed, and you’re still looking at your phone. But right before you go to sleep, you’re on the go constantly with no time to pause and check on anything, let alone yourself. You’re in this very potent stew of cortisol dopamine and adrenaline.
It is running you constantly, like you believe that you are superwoman. Like you could sleep 5 hours and then just live basically on these hormones. And there’s literally no space for your intuition to enter because you’re in the go/go pattern. This isn’t healthy, by the way. It’s keeping you from getting quiet, which is where you can actually start to listen into your intuition. It’s the equivalent of going to a restaurant where the noise level is peak. Some of those restaurants are just so loud, and you’re trying to have a conversation, but you can’t even hear the other person. So either you have to start yelling and go hoarse, or you might just give up totally.
This is how your intuition feels.. “Hello, can you hear me?” And if you are never present, if you are never quieting that internal chatter, if you are never getting yourself into a regulated, centered, grounded space, if you’re never in quiet moments with no stimulation, you literally won’t be able to hear it. And you also won’t understand the difference between an intuitive voice and the harsh critical one that is telling you that you’re not doing enough.
The second way you are undermining your intuition with your hyperachieving is that the hyperachieving is generating the pattern of outsourcing your self-worth to your life. What does this mean? So when your whole life is dedicated to achieving and you never really feel successful, it’s because there is a pattern of you getting your self-worth from what you do. This is like what’s happening on your resume. You would put it down on your resume from promotions, accomplishments, and what goals you hit at work versus who you are. This is a simple one, yet it is infinitely complex to work through. It’s the idea that you have to earn your worth in the world, in some fashion. And you probably learned this somewhere along the way when you were a kid, when you were rewarded for getting an award at school or you were praised for your grades, rather than being praised for being a kind, loving human.
When this occurs, you learn that when you do something good, that you are worthy. And so you start to make that association in your head and then you create that pattern through your lifetime, and it becomes a pattern that blocks you from understanding that your worthiness is not in any way related to the things that you do. It’s not related to your job, who you’re married to if you’re married, or if you’re single, whether you have children, all of those things. Then really starting to understand and to have the confidence to start to feel worthy enough to choose your life for yourself. When we’re in this crazy hyperachieving pattern, we are trying to also succeed on other people’s terms. You’re trying to succeed in climbing the ladder at a corporate job. You’re trying to prove yourself through what other people say is the correct thing to do. But when you can actually start to bring self-worth back within, that’s actually when we start to move and branch out and say,” Wow, I am worthy of a life that I feel passionate about, that I feel excited about”. And until you have that feeling and connection that your worth and value is bigger than the things that you’re doing, it’s pretty tough to tune into your intuition, because you have to feel worthy of even starting to hear what it is, so that you can start to move into a life that feels really exciting for you.
My intuition has told me some pretty freaking outrageous things, like “Quit your journalism job and quit another job to write a book, get married, get divorced, write another book”. It has told me so many wild things over the years. And it says it really nicely, it says it so clearly, so kindly and it’s not dictating to me. It’s just telling me, “Hey, it’s time for you to go this direction”. And these gentle nudges can be super easy to ignore, especially if you are still in this place where you’re believing that what you do is going to determine your value and worth. But when you feel really worthy of taking some bold risks of trying things that are outside the box, you start to separate your worthiness from your actions. That is when we actually return to, and source, our own power again.
The third way that your hyperachieving is undermining your intuition, is through control. Hyperachievers love to believe that they are in control. And you might want to fight me on it. Like, as you listen to this, wherever you’re at in the world, you’re like, “I don’t try to control”. Or maybe you do try to control, and you pride yourself on trying to control. And what happens with hyperachieving is, you think you can control your way through your goals. That you are the person who is in charge fully of this dynamic. So I have a feeling that you love this. You love to feel like you’ve got it all organized, that it’s all on you. And you spend all your days trying to get it organized. Like you’re figuring everything out for your kids, you’re working out everything for your team. You are micromanaging, even though you don’t like to think about it that way, but you’re just trying to make sure everything fits into a particular location within the day. And let me tell you, this kind of control is frankly exhausting. If you are trying to get into the bigger picture of your life, and you are really interested in this bigger roadmap of why anything you’re doing right now matters for the big picture of your life, and instead, allow yourself to relax, you might actually find that it is so much more possible for you to get to that result that you’re hoping for. Whether it is a different job, whether it is starting your own business, whether it is getting into the relationship of your dreams, or improving the marriage that you already have.
But hyper-achievers don’t want to relinquish that control. They want to believe that they are fully in charge of everything that is going on around them. It’s the equivalent of going to Hawaii and basically demanding a rainbow. Like you land there and you’re like, where is my rainbow? This is the land of rainbows. I would like to see one right now. But rainbows don’t appear on command, and you have to watch yourself where you’re doing that. You’re like basically walking around life demanding rainbows. The best goals are actually like rainbows. They appear when they are ready.
Your job is to start to understand and recognize when you’re getting into this control mode, and when you’re getting into this mode of, “I must have it all figured out”, instead of recognizing that there is so much in life that we really don’t have figured out. And when you get into this control mode, it’s actually stopping you from having the life where you feel ease and peacefulness, and spaciousness.
So the fourth way that hyperachieving undermines your intuition, is it distracts you. Hyperachieving distracts you from what you are here to do. Because hyper-achievers are in constant action. You are out there getting stuff done. You always have lists; you are organizing things in your mind. You’re stopping here after work while you pick up the kids. You’ve got all this stuff dialed; except you’re not taking the aligned action that will make a difference. Aligned action means you actually working less, having more personal time and space, and being ambitious, and knowing you want to make an impact, without feeling like you are overextending yourself along the way.
Being in action can sometimes be like the duck when the duck on top of the water looks so peaceful and calm, but there are just the little legs turning underneath the water. The kind of action that’s not really getting you anywhere. And that is always happening with hyper-achievers because we’re constantly out there to prove. And so you take all these actions, you want people to know that you’re really being effective, and you go to all the meetings, and you return all the emails, even late at night, and you’re just working until you’re totally exhausted. But it’s not action in the direction that you want to go. Like, have you ever gone to the grocery store, Target, for one specific thing and then you get in there and you’re totally distracted by everything else and all the other things they’ve got there, and they’re selling? And then by the time you get home, you realize you didn’t actually get the one thing that you went for. If this is resonating, that’s what it’s like. That’s the distraction that we have when we are in constant hyperachieving mode. There’s no pause, there’s no room to consider if that action is going to actually forward me because we’re so obsessed with to-do lists, and making sure that we’re getting everything done and feeling accomplished. Like literally even outsourcing your self-worth to your to-do list, rather than recognizing that there are certain actions that are very powerful, that are going to move your life forward in a big way versus “I just have to get stuff done all the time”. So noticing when hyperachieving is really distracting you and is actually keeping you from connecting into the aligned action, will make the biggest difference in your life. A lot of times my intuition tells me to do things, like “Rest, Nicole, get more sleep, eat a nourishing meal, take a break.” It’s not always telling me to do more. In fact, it actually never tells me that. It tells me how to align my time, but it would never tell me, “You’re not doing enough,” because your intuition would never say something so harsh.
So how do you bridge the gap between hyperachieving and intuition? It starts by recognizing when you are in that mode. When you are in the go/go mode, you’re in the control mode, you’re in the action for the sake of action mode. You are in the, “I am stressed out and I’m just going to keep going intensely and go till the end of the day until I collapse on the couch with potato chips and Netflix”. Now, recognizing that you’re in that mode is the first step. And the other cool thing is it doesn’t mean you have to quell your ambition.
I am actually very ambitious. I love being able to stretch myself and move into bigger, deeper goals. But it also takes understanding of when you’re taking on more than you actually have space for, just to prove something, whether it is to others or to yourself, when you can start to recognize that is what is happening, that is so cool because that is the breakthrough. That is the moment where you can start to say, “Wow, maybe it is time for me to take my hands off the wheel for a moment. Maybe it’s time for me to start to understand what it is that keeps me driving forward instead of taking that pause”. Because you don’t know what you’re going to find when you’re in that pause. And that is actually one of the coolest places to be, is in the pause, starting to learn and understand that there might be more to life than this constant, never-ending hyperachieving.
All right, thank you so much for listening and being in this exploration with me.
I am so grateful to you for listening to the podcast. I hope you have received some insight for yourself today and your path toward creating your intuitive purposeful life.