Thursday, December 23, 2010

On achieving, over-achieving, and under-achieving

As I have gotten older, I have realized that I am slowly becoming less of an over-achiever and more of an achiever. I don't think there is anything wrong with this change, necessarily. I believe it comes as part of getting older and wiser. By wiser, I mean that I have learned the value of economy and efficiency as I go about my daily tasks.

When I was younger, I was definitely an over-achiever. I used to get up early, go to bed late, get to class early, leave class later, volunteer for extra projects, do extra credit assignments, study more than enough to get A's, play sports, cook regular meals, go hiking, climb mountains, bike long distances, and do anything that anyone asked me to - even if it meant dropping what I was doing to do what they wanted. Even though I was often blessed with a great sense of accomplishment after doing all these things, I was also blessed with a great deal of stress and feeling of inadequacy when I couldn't get everything done that I wanted to or that I was expected to. I had a tendency to volunteer for every odd job or committee leadership position that no one else wanted. I also had a tendency to take over for people that already had the leadership positions because "they weren't doing it right". This unfortunately left me with very little time to focus on what I needed to get done and left me very stretched thin by it all.

I also found that in my quest to be an over-achiever, I often worked twice as hard as others, only to end up with the same result. Someone else would do just enough to get by and be rewarded with exactly the same thing as me. Due to this, over the years, I have discovered that over-achieving can sometimes be not what it is cracked up to be. While it can pay off, it mostly is punctuated with lots of extra steps and duplications. I found myself taking up slack that wasn't mine to take up and worrying about projects that weren't mine to worry about. People began to expect that I would clean up after them and I began to resent that fact. Also, I realized that some of my well-intentioned over-achieving was found to be annoying by the very people I was so bent on trying to take care of. Some people don't want extra help from a know-it-all, over-achiever. Thus I have slowly started to drop my over-achieving ways.

Now I am focused on doing primarily the tasks that are truly mine to do and the jobs that are my jobs. I am trying to lose the desire to do things because no one else will. If they won't do them, perhaps they don't need to be done? If no one else will volunteer, perhaps no one should? I am trying to became an achiever, plain and simple. I want to use my time in the most efficient and economical manner to get everything that I need to done.

Now, let me get one thing straight, by being just an achiever this does not mean that I am becoming an under-achiever. Under-achieving is when someone purposefully shirks their responsibilities. An under-achiever is a lazy person who believes that some over-achiever will come along and take responsibility for their shortcomings (I used to be that over-achiever!).

Achieving without over doing it or under doing it can be a wonderful thing. It allows you the time to focus on what tasks are truly important for your happiness, while allowing you the freedom to resist tasks that won't add to your personal happiness. This may sound selfish, but an achiever should always consider other people's needs and wants without compromising their own. An over-achiever would disregard their own needs and wants for the sake of others'. An under-achiever would disregard others' needs and wants for the sake of their own. It's a fine line to balance, but I believe it can be done.

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