Are you a High-Achiever?

Were you identified as gifted and talented at a young age?
Did you pride yourself on straight A’s and feel frustrated when you struggled?
Did you graduate at top of your class or some version of cum laude?
Have you had a successful career?
Are you a Manager, Director, or Executive with your company or do you own your own business?
Is success important to you?

If you have answered yes to some or even all of these questions, chances are, you are a high-achiever. While high-achievers can look like they have it all together on the outside, with their success, prestige, and status, it’s not always a walk in the park. With high-achieving can come stress, uncertainty, and worry.

If you are a high achiever, in addition to being highly successful, you might also (be):

*impatient – you want it and you want it now

*hard on yourself

*your feelings in the moment are closely tied to how you are performing

*perfectionist in certain areas

*setting goals and achieving goals is both exciting and stressful at the same time

*like to be in control of outcomes

*your identity is tied to what you do

*going with the flow and being flexibility are difficult because you don’t feel in control

*you can be all or nothing.

*your way or the highway.

*ambivalence is maddening; you can’t stand the uncertainty

*impatient with learning the nuances of a process

*feel superior to others who don’t have your high standards

*being on time and on top of things is of high value

*dissatisfied – not content. Contentment feels like settling for the status quo.

*always striving for more

*hard to find peace

*rarely celebrate wins because your already on to the next achievement

*comparison is a big issue…where you should be

*inner critic is loud

*can get stuck in “shoulds”

*can get caught in being narrow-minded or judgmental

*never doing enough or working hard enough

*high standards is sometimes confused with high self-esteem. Often low self-esteem

*overly responsible for everyone else (and takes on that burden as a bit of a martyr at times)

This is the down side of high-achieving. The hidden secret that can take its toll on your well-being. I think I was born a high-achiever and I have worked with many high-achieving people. In fact, we tend to be drawn to one another. I know the highs and I know the lows.

Years ago, my high-achieving caused me to burn out. I just had so many creative ideas and excitement about my work that I just couldn’t stop raising my hand wanting to do more; and I had no one to help me put on the brakes. I stopped eating right; well I pretty much stopped eating during work hours unless I could find something to shovel in while I sat at my desk. I stopped making the time for exercise, yoga, and meditation. On weekends, I couldn’t get my mind off of work and by Sunday afternoon my mood was cratering as I started to ruminate about all of the things that I had to do come Monday morning. I was overscheduled, overstretched, and miserable. At first, I blamed the job. I blamed my bosses. I blamed the work culture. And while that all played a role, months after I left that job and I was working for myself and still being in the same patterns, I had to admit, it was me.

I was a consummate high-achiever and I had forgotten how to shut it off. My ambition was running me, not the other way around. I left my job to recover from my burnout, follow my purpose, and have more time for myself and my family; but here I was working morning, noon and night again, not working out, and skipping meals.

I had to stop. And I did. It’s not easy when you are a highly ambitious person to step away from your dream, even when it’s just for moments, but the irony is, it’s the only way to get there. Positive psychology has proven this out. The most successful people create habits that create a sustainable path to success. I personally call it My Success Without Stress Method. You have to make the time for the strategies (mental and physical) that will support your success over the long haul, otherwise, you will burn out. It’s a fact.

The best part though (other than recovering from or preventing burn out) is that your success can be even better than before. It can be more meaningful, more purposeful, more enjoyable, you can enjoy better health and relationships, have more energy and finally be at peace without sacrificing your high-achieving standards. You just have to work differently.

If this article resonated with you and you’re interested in learning more, please contact me or leave a comment below.


  • Dr. Donna Marino (PsyD)

    Psychologist & Executive Coach

    Donna Marino, PsyD, Ltd

    Dr. Donna Marino is a Psychologist and Executive Coach. She is an expert in helping high-achieving leaders move from burnout to SUSTAINABLE peak performance, so that they can fulfill their mission while also experiencing greater health, happiness, and relationships. Dr. Marino has over 20 years of experience in human potential and transformational change.

    As a high-achiever, who works with high-achievers, she discovered a collection of characteristics that when left unchecked lead to burn out, high-functioning anxiety and high-functioning depression. She coined the term for this condition, High-Achievers Syndrome (TM) and developed a protocol for dealing with it, recovering and creating SUSTAINABLE peak performance.

      Dr. Donna is also a sought after speaker and author on leadership, peak performance, and burnout recovery.