I’ve been wanting to write a piece about this for some time, but sometimes you wait a little and you learn a little more. This is such a case. This allowed me to get a different take on my thoughts about this syndrome. Something that really knocks people back when it hits them. It often goes by unnoticed, undetected but so noticeably visible.
What am I talking about? I’m talking about the ‘Over Achiever‘ syndrome. You know who you are. You’re the ones that were ‘blessed’ with a straight A report at school without even trying. You were socially adaptable, so didn’t really feel that uncomfortable at break time in the school yard, had friends, girlfriends, boyfriends. You were on most peer elected school bodies, you got into your desired course of study at college or university. You breezed through your degree and appropriately qualified in your chosen fields, and then headed off into the workforce…
Bang! You hit your wall. Life is not a school yard. Friends who you thought were friends screw you over, people steal, you lose direction about what you want, you get dumped! You experience the dreaded FAIL. The thing we get taught at school, there is such a thing as right and wrong, and you are so used to being told you are right, how is it possible to FAIL!? You are now walking dangerously close to the slippery slope. Why? When things come so easily to you, you’ve never really had to deal with fighting for something, and something else that goes by unnoticed… people who fail at school, don’t always mind, as they don’t feel motivated by whats being put in front of them. These are the people when you look back who seemed to always get in trouble, yet, always seemed to be having fun. Not that you weren’t having fun, it wasn’t your fault that you found the material easy, you excelled at it. The environment unfortunately in my opinion is not reflective of the school yard of life, and I would hazard a wager that the kids who experienced more FAIL at school, but where this failure was driven by a lack of motivation and not real failure, are more likely to succeed when the stakes get higher. These types of ‘failures’ are more likely to ‘succeed’ as they are unfazed by choice. It’s simple for them, they pursue something that motivates them, and are generally not coerced down a further narrow corridor of generality and ultimately endless choice.
Our schooling systems don’t dig into the detail of what motivates us. It’s a simple pass and fail environment. Is life this simple? We know its not.
I read an interesting piece in the Harvard Business Review by Oliver Segovia entitled To Find Happiness, Forget Passion, which at first got my back up, but when reading further Oliver makes a compelling point. One should focus one’s energies on solving problems the world has versus ‘following a passion’. Now whilst this link to this post may not be evident yet, it’s something I want to tie back to people with the ‘Overachiever Syndrome.’ I think for many overachievers, they ultimately become bewildered by their lack of clarity into their chosen career paths, and the passion you crave may be hidden in finding ‘problems’ and solving them versus trying to figure out what your passion is. Your passion will become the solution, and this is cool!
To all the overachievers out there, who feel uncertain about what your next move is, or actually dealing with an ultimately embracing failure as part and parcel of learning more about yourself and what you have to give to the world. I will leave you with a quote from Miyamoto Mushashi, who lived from 1584-1645, a Japanese Samurai fighter from his book The Book of Five Rings…
‘I am master of myself. No man is invincible, there is always the possibility of being defeated. One can never fully understand that which would make him invincible. Understand that in attaining a perfection, one experiences a form of death. To die as a warrior, means to have crossed swords and either won or lost without any consideration for winning of losing.‘
This coming from a man who was a samurai fighter for a living! His fail was real death! We just lose some paper? Maybe it puts it into persepctive, maybe it doesn’t, but don’t be so serious with yourself. The truth is you can really only figure out your calling, and go forward and achieve if you embrace failure as part of the experience.
Embrace your failures. Celebrate them.
‘The heart is essential in helping the intellect to understand the spirit.‘
Open your heart. You have nothing really to lose.