Sydney-based Yu Dan Shi (pictured below) is a coach, mentor and speaker, helping other professionals live an inspired life. She’s also the author of the book Come Alive – Live a Life with More Meaning and Joy. In this guest post, she argues all that hard work might make you a high achiever, but it doesn’t necessarily make you a high performer…
How many of us think, “If I can achieve this, I will be happier,” yet constantly feel unfulfilled? It’s a trap so many of us fall into. We believe happiness is just around the corner, and if only we work just a bit harder, for just a bit longer, we will finally be able to reach it.
The trouble is, it rarely happens. How many of us have been full of ambition and finally arrived at our hard-fought destination, only to realise what it promised us was a mirage? Our years of hard work have not given us the happiness and contentment we’d hoped for.
To travel so far and realise this can be deeply disappointing. Dr Tony Grant, a coaching psychologist at the University of Sydney, calls this a “hollow victory”. Why is this happening?
Through years of research and working with successful high achievers, I have discovered that a lot of our unhappiness is the result of our long-term behaviours and habits. These habits often brought us success early in life but derailed our happiness as we pursued even greater success.
These detrimental habits include:
- Working tirelessly at the expense of sleep, relationships, our wellbeing and life balance.
- Saying “yes” to everything to show how committed we are.
- Pushing ourselves into the ground to manage an ever-expanding workload.
- Prioritising other people’s goals over our own.
Typically, organisations and society reward these behaviours. We quickly discover they get us ahead in our careers, so we keep doing them, even when they don’t make us happy. When these behaviours become a daily habit, they inevitably wear us down, no matter how successful we are.
What underpins this pattern is the fact we don’t know how to achieve success in a healthy way. Most of us have only been taught how to work harder and longer to achieve success, not how to work better.
In my corporate career of 20-plus years, I witnessed the negative outcomes of a workaholic culture every day. The high achievers were the ones who suffered most. They would pull all-nighters and turn up to work the next day. They would routinely start a second shift after putting their children to bed. They would travel across time zones, severely jet-lagged yet able to sit through back-to-back meetings with no rest.
They were proud of their discipline and toughness. Yet privately, these high achievers were falling apart, desperately wanting a break. I know, because I was one of them.
In 2008, I suffered a severe burnout in my first executive job as a CMO for a global tech company. For years, the motto I followed was “no pain, no gain”. The result was that I was so burnt out, it took an emergency operation to force me to look at the way I worked and lived differently. My doctor explicitly told me that my life-threatening illness was the result of unhealthy working habits and stress.
There is a limit to how much and how hard we can work. We cannot sustain a state of never-ending struggle. Eventually, people break. Like a fuel tank, our willpower and energy need to be topped up or they will run out.
In other words, many of us are high achievers but not necessarily high performers.
When we learn to achieve in an optimal way, we sustain our success for longer and we become much happier.
By the time clients come to see me in my coaching practice, they are often contemplating leaving their jobs or quitting their careers altogether. However, only 20 per cent of these clients need to make an external change. The majority can improve their situations dramatically simply by learning better working habits.
With the right tools and techniques, high achievers learn how to motivate themselves naturally without shouting “come on, you can do it”. They understand how to perform at their peak and restore their energy daily. And they learn how to re-design their work and daily agenda to get the best out of themselves.
By refining their working habits, high achievers see tremendous results within a short period of time. They take back control, feel energised and driven. They significantly cut back their working hours. They not only start to perform better at work, but they also feel much happier overall. They sleep soundly at night. Their relationships with their families improve as their psychological wellbeing recovers. For many, they also finally have the time to re-connect with their passion projects, bringing joy back into their lives.
You don’t need to stop achieving. But learning how to achieve optimally makes the journey so much more enjoyable. We all want to succeed. But we don’t have to sacrifice our happiness and wellbeing in the process. We can succeed in a healthier way – that’s the real success
Please login with linkedin to commentYu Dan Shi
In this guest post, Garrett Ilg, President JAPAC at Oracle, Oracle Corporation lays out how marketers can lead their businesses to recovery… The global pandemic has changed nearly everything for CMOs, forcing them to scramble as consumers shift even more to online shopping. Meanwhile, CEOs are pressuring their marketing chiefs to find strategies for recovery. […]
The NSW Government and the Department of Education have today launched a major campaign titled ‘Maths Trains Brains’ which is aimed at changing the perception of maths and encouraging more engagement towards the subject for students from pre-kindy to Year 10. The campaign was developed by creative and digital agency Bastion Banjo with production by […]
Grill’d has launched a new tactical campaign ahead of the upcoming US elections, with the aim of comparing big American fast food giants with Grill’d’s home-grown, healthier approach to burgers. The tongue-in-cheek campaign depicts Donald Trump’s addiction to fast food options, such as McDonald’s, KFC, Burger King and Dominos, with the words ‘You are what […]
In this guest post, Dr Phillip Lawrence of Edith Cowan University debunks the myths of the environmental impact of printing… The environmental credentials of printing have been in the spotlight for a while with brands and marketers as well as large corporates regularly proposing they would reduce or eliminate paper and printing from their business as […]
The WPP-owned agency Mindshare has revealed it has won the media business for both Kayo and Binge. Both Kayo and Binge form part of Foxtel’s Steamotion’s streaming services and have seen significant boosts to the subscription numbers in recent times, primarily during lockdown. Commenting on the win, Mindshare CEO Katie Rigg-Smith said the win would […]
Realworld, an Australian location-based technology company, today launched adfindr.co, a leads platform for media owners. Adfindr finds the contact details of hundreds of local businesses around any location. Adfindr offers all media owners a database of local advertising leads. Simply type in a location and extract advertising leads in that area. David Sanderson, Director at […]
The new Online Will from State Trustees has launched with an unexpected campaign via newly appointed creative agency Hardhat, one that aims to turn in between moments into opportunities for action. Having a baby, moving house or exploring some thrilling new hobbies – this colourful, tongue-in-cheek campaign leverages the types of life stages that trigger […]
Worksafe and FCB New Zealand have launched a wild new campaign, challenging New Zealanders to take a fresh look at workplace safety. The launch TVC, hitting screens big and small this week, asks workers to be more vigilant and proactive, by listening to their inner-meerkats. In the last five years, WorkSafe has recorded 363 workplace […]
Immersive media company Imagine Room has signed an exclusive agreement with Microsoft to build and operate Australia’s first Mixed Reality Capture Studio to drive the next generation of content production. The state-of-the-art studio uses 106 cameras to create holographic and 3D-video performance assets and create immersive and interactive experiences for virtual reality (VR), augmented reality […]