Coaching high achievers involves a lot of realizing late into your introductory sessions that this person coming to you with low energy, low motivation, and a directionless quality to life is actually fresh off an extreme sports competition or quitting a ten-year drug habit cold turkey.
You know, the stuff that the rest of us only joke about.
But to these folks, it’s real. It’s actually so real and their lives are so intense that the ambient norm of everyday living feels like depression for some of them.
More to the point, high achievers can struggle with the lows and bounce-back periods of their lives between major achievements. In particular, this struggle is amplified for high achievers (of any age) whose earlier direction and pursuits were strongly influenced by another person.
We’ve all heard that before. Behind every great person is a great spouse, great parents, or a great community. While it’s important to emphasize that most high achievers are people with very strong willpower (potentially despite their present mood), it’s these great influences in their lives that first activate them.
It’s the parents who take us to soccer practice, run drills with us on their own time, and show up with enthusiasm at every scrimmage who activate us as athletes. It’s the English literature teacher who comments on our work, recommends extracurricular reading, and encourages us to keep writing after graduation who activates us as writers.
We might follow the footsteps of a musician or artist from our hometown, someone we relate to in another way or share something extraordinary in common with. Every high achiever I’ve worked with has one of these influences in their lives. And they set us on the path of our first major achievements.
High Achievers Need to Connect to Their Own Power
Where high achievers get derailed is in individuating themselves from these early influences. When someone guides you into something you’re passionate about, it can be a challenge to realize these passions as your own too. And in that sense, it can be difficult to differentiate your own approach from theirs, particularly if they exerted a strong influence on your start.
The high achievers I’ve coached are people who reached spectacular heights early in life when these influences were still present. As soon as their late teens or early twenties, their achievement level suddenly took a nosedive, and that’s where they got stuck. Some became too focused on following the precise footsteps of their influences, and neglected their selves in the process. Others acclimated to being directed and told what to do–they show up for coaching in hopes that I can tell them what’s next for them.
Spoiler alert: it’s not my choice to make.
The truth for every high achiever is that you’ve already come so far. You’ve already proven to yourself and to the world that you have the willpower, discipline, and personal fortitude to take on tremendous tasks, and to accomplish them. Getting that high again is never going to be your problem. That’s your norm.
What you’re learning is that what’s next is not decided already. In fact, the older and more independent you get, the less direction you’ll receive from others about what comes next. The future is truly up to you to decide.
Sometimes you’re going to fail, and fail spectacularly. In every direction you choose, you will struggle and encounter obstacles that challenge you. It’s your turn now to be the influence that guided you earlier in your life. Only this time, it’s your own success story you can go back to whenever and as often as you need it.
You’ve come so far already. But you’re nowhere near finished yet.