3 Ways High-Achievers Sabotage Their Success


briana hansen 5 lowHey! Hey you! You achiever, you! Listen to me! It’s imperative you listen to me for the next few minutes. I need you to know something.

You’re good enough. You’re smart enough. And darn it, people will like you. And your product.

I know this sounds silly, but I’ve seen so many high-achieving, intelligent friends of mine become embroiled in the battle for confidence in their own head that they lose sight of the importance of putting their product into the world.

So I’m going to lay out the three things I see happen (and do myself) that sabotage good work. If you find yourself doing any of these, recognize it, then get over it. Your voice, your work, and your product are too important to the world to let any of these get in the way.

1. Second Guessing

What was good enough for you yesterday doesn’t seem to be cutting it today. You made a major decision yesterday and now you’re wondering if it was the right one. You made a bold choice in an audition and now you’re completely regretting it. You shot a great action sequence you were really proud of yesterday, but now you’re wondering if it’s really as good as you thought.

Whatever you decided yesterday, you were right. Now stop wasting any more energy worrying about it.

As long as you’re in touch with yourself and you make decisions based on the information you have and what feels right in your gut in the moment, you can be happy about every decision you’ve made. Even if it turns out to be a disaster (which is highly unlikely), you can deal with the problems created from the decision if they ever arise when they arise and not a moment before.

Second guessing does nothing but waste precious energy in an unchangeable past while losing the awareness for what can and should be done in the present.

The more you learn to trust yourself and your decisions, the stronger your intuition will become and the easier each big decision will be. You know what’s best for yourself and your product. Do the best you can, trust yourself and you’ll never have to live with regret. Even if you make a mistake, you’ll at least know that you did your best. And you can learn from the mistake and grow stronger for future decisions, rather than becoming obsessed and wallowing in the past.

2. Over-Planning

This is an insidious habit that can waste countless hours of your time and energy before even realize what’s happening. It makes you believe that you’re being productive. You believe that whatever it is you’re planning for will be even better because of the intense amount of planning that goes into it. And to some extent, there are lots of benefits to be reaped from thorough planning.

The problem comes when all you find yourself doing is planning yet there is never a plan for what happens when everything is planned.

We don’t know what the future will hold. We can make plans based on a future we can guess about based on the past, but we don’t truly know. It’s good to have action plans in place- to know how you want to do what you want to do. But at some point, you just have to do it. Because even the best laid plans can crumble apart while actually being done.

I have a solo show I created years ago called Femoir.” I still produce it on stages occasionally and regularly in podcast form. The first time I did it, I planned it out. I did what needed to be done to create a product I was proud of. Then I booked a theater and produced it. And guess what? It was just mediocre.

But thanks to some help from a teacher that was at that first performance, I got valuable feedback and a priceless connection to a woman who would become my partner and director over the next several years. I improved the product. I improved as a performer. I better understood what I wanted and how I wanted to achieve it. I produced it numerous times again in various cities. And every time I did it, I got better. I planned as best I could for what I could see possibly happening, and then I just did it. Sometimes, it went exactly as planned. Sometimes, it went better than planned. Several times, it went haywire. But I figured it out just by doing it. And each time, I got tons of laughs, became a much better performer, and gained a lot of confidence in my own talent while entertaining lots of people. Which was the real goal behind it all.

Plan as best you can, then execute. Don’t get embroiled in the planning. You don’t know what you need until you just do it. And you’ll probably fall on your face several times in the actualization of whatever it is you’re working towards. But you’ll learn from each time and get better. Then you’ll achieve whatever you originally set out for and so much more.

3. Perfectionism

This is an off-shoot of both the fallacies listed above. Believe me, I know this impulse. I know it well. I have to keep it in check every single day. I have a high-achieving, Type-A personality that wants everything to be done efficiently and perfectly. I don’t have a lot of tolerance for slacking or laziness.

But what I’ve realized through the years that things simply are what they are. There is no right or wrong.

Sure, you should be proud of your product. And sure, you should make sure everything is to your specifications. And sure, you should take your time to get it just how you want it- but then you have to learn to let it go. Put it out there. You can’t know if something will actually work until you put it out there to do the very job it was created to do.

I don’t know if my web series will be successful until I actually put it out for the world to see. I don’t know if a joke will be funny until I say it in front of an audience. I have no idea if the products I create will do what they were intended to do until I let them live on their own.

In improvisation, you can come into a scene with a very specific idea. And no matter how well you’ve planned out the world’s most perfect scene in your head, you have no control over the other people in the scene with you. You can only control yourself and your initial reaction. After that, you have to be in response to whatever people throw at you.

In life, it’s the same way. You can (and should) work hard on creating something wonderful and beautiful. And step out into the world with the intention of making a difference. But once you put it out there, all you can do is simply be in response to the reaction of the world around it.

Whatever you’re doing isn’t perfect. Because you’re not perfect. I’m not perfect. Nobody is. And that’s what makes life worth living. There’s always something to strive toward. There’s always something to work on. There’s always something lacking that you can learn from and improve.

There’s always some exciting reason to make yesterday better than today.

So in the words of the over-played Disney song of the year, “Let It Go.”Trust yourself. Put yourself out there. And look forward to the numerous ways you get to improve throughout your life.