High Performance Habits: Beware Three Traps 2 (part 19 of 22)

Trap #2: Dissatisfaction

Those who are never satisfied are never at peace. They can’t tune in to their zone – the noise of a dissatisfied mind prevents them from finding a rhythm that makes them feel alive and effective.

Ultimately, the dark, exhausting, negative emotional prison that is constant dissatisfaction saps performance. Perennial dissatisfaction is the first step on the path to misery.

If dissatisfaction is so detrimental to performance, why do so many people think you have to be dissatisfied to succeed? Because it feels natural and automatic. It’s easy to be dissatisfied, because noticing what’s wrong in a situation is a habit of evolution.

The reason I push so hard against the “never be satisfied” credo extends beyond the empirical research. Simply, this thinking has little to no practical value, because the emphasis is in the wrong area. It’s pointing in a statement rather than a positive direction. When you speak to people who are fond of that instruction, and ask them to turn it into a positive takeaway, they say such things as “Stay motivated”; “Notice what’s not working and improve it”; “Care about perfecting the details”; “Set your sights on bigger goals as you grow”; “Keep moving forward.” The truth is, you can do all these things and still be satisfied. Seeking excellence and experiencing satisfaction are not mutually exclusive.

Being satisfied, then, doesn’t mean “settling.” It simply means accepting and taking pleasure in what is.

So how can you avoid performance-sapping dissatisfaction? I suggest a big-picture reminder: Life is short, so decide to enjoy it. Instead of discontent, bring joy and honor to what you do. I promise you’ll start feeling more alive, motivated, and fulfilled.

In this moment now, you can breathe deep and finally, after all this time, give yourself love and appreciation. To help you on this journey, try this:

  • Start journaling at the end of each day. Write down three things that went well or better than expected that day. Write about any progress or blessings that you feel grateful for. It’s such simple but essential advice to keep a high performer performing high: Start noticing what’s going well, appreciate your blessings, enjoy the journey, and record your wins.
  • Get your family or team together once a week for no other reason than to talk about what’s working, what are people excited about, what difference your efforts are making in real people’s lives.
  • Start meetings by asking others to share one great thing that has happened that can give the team a sense of joy, pride, and fulfillment.

These are simple steps, but they will matter to the people you love and lead.


  1. The areas of my life I’ve felt consistently dissatisfied with include …
  2. Some good things that have also happened in those areas include …
  3. Something I can say to myself the next time I feel dissatisfied, to get me to notice the good things and continue moving forward, is …
  4. Someone who probably sees me dissatisfied more than I want them to is …
  5. If I were going to inspire that person to believe you can enjoy life as you work hard and succeed, I would have to change these behaviors …


Trap #3: Neglect

Neglect, like the other traps of superiority and disappointment, sneaks up on you. You don’t say to yourself, “I’m going to neglect my health, my family, my team, my responsibilities, my real passions and dreams.” It’s more that passion or busyness blinds you to what’s important, just long enough for things to fall apart.

Often, then, it’s not what you do that unseats you from high performance, but was you don’t do. In single-minded pursuit of achievement and mastery in one area of life, you take your eyes off the other areas. Soon, those areas fight back for more attention. This si the story of those who work so hard in their career that they keep forging their spouse’s needs. Soon, the marriage is in turmoil, the high performer feels awful, and performance declines. Switch this example out with neglect of one’s health, children, friendships, spirituality, or finances, and you still have the same story: Obsession in one area of life hurts another area, setting off a negative cascade of events and feelings that eventually unseats the high performer.

I want you to avoid this fate. The good news is, it’s tactically easy to avoid neglect. The bad news is, it requires  difficult and often dramatic mental shift. Before I share the how part, let me share two distinctions about why high performers neglect something important to them in the first place.


Obliviousness is the less used excuse of the two, but a destructive culprit nonetheless. It means you are so focused in one area that you are completely unaware of the growing problems in another. High performers who started losing explain it by saying, “I was so obsessed with work, I honestly didn’t realize I was getting so fat.” Or “She just up and left one day. I was blindsided and hated myself for it.” Or “That’s when I realized my team had been telling me the same things for months, but I was too busy to pay attention.”

Part of the reason it’s so painful is that the things that they believe help the climb to success – hard work, focus, and persistence – became the very things that caused their demise.

The chapters on clarity and influence will help you avoid obliviousness. Also, you might want to recall and implement the life arenas activity from the chapter on productivity:

The solution is to keep perspective in life by keeping an eye on the quality or progress of the major life arenas. A simple weekly review of what we’re after in the major areas of our life helps us rebalance or at least plan for more balance.

I’ve found it useful to organize life into ten distinct categories: health, family, friends, intimate relationship, mission/work, finances, adventure, hobby, spirituality, and emotion. When I’m working with clients, I often have them rate their happiness on a scale of 1 through 10 and also write their goals in each of these ten arenas every Sunday night.