High Performance Habits: Beware Three Traps 3 (part 20 of 22)

Overreaching

Now you have a new tool to avoid becoming oblivious as you continue to rise. The next issue, overreaching, is a little trickier to deal with.

According to the high performers who failed to maintain their success, overreaching was a problem that stemmed from an insatiable desire for more, couple with an unrealistic sense of what is possible in a short time frame, which led to overcommitment. In other words, it was an issue of going for too much, too fast, in too many domains.

Their lesson learned was clear. When you’re good, you want to take on more. But beware the impulse. High performance isn’t about more for the sake of more, just because you can. It’s often about less – zeroing in on just those few things that matter and protecting your time and well-being so you can truly engage those around you, enjoy your craft, and confidently handle your responsibilities. Focus on just a few things and the people and priorities yo really care about, and you won’t fall prey to overreaching. Broaden your ambitions too widely, and your appetite soon outstrips your abilities. Hence the importance of reminding yourself that the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.

Slow down, be more strategic, and say no more often. … So what, exactly do we mean by “slow down”? First, rather than live a reactive lifestyle, you take ownership of your day. When the successes pile up, it’s easy to spend time responding to invitations and calls and well-wishers’ requests. Suddenly, the day has cruised by and you haven’t done anything. You feel successful, but nothing is really happening except new meetings. Slowing down means taking the time to care about your schedule – doing what you’ve learned in this book about reviewing your calendar and to-dos each night, each morning, each week.

It also means saying no to the good things that would stretch your day too far. if a good opportunity comes up but it’s going to rob you of a few nights’ sleep, force you to cancel strategic moves you planned long ago, or knock you out of time with your family, then just say no. Cramming your day so full that you have no time for thought or rejuvenation just makes you tired and irritable. And no one credits fatigue and a bad mood for their world-class performance.

To help you discern between the yeses an dos, you have to start thinking more strategically. Strategic thinking means stripping things down to the essentials and planning their accomplishment out over months and years. This is hard, but you have to weigh opportunities differently now, measuring them against a much longer horizon. You can’t think just about how flashy something is this month. You have to be executing against a plan – your five moves – that’s already in place for the next several months. If the new thing you want to commit to doesn’t strategically move you toward your end goals, it must be delayed. Most opportunities in life that are really worthwhile and meaningful will still be here six months from now. If that’s hard to believe, it’s just because you’re new to success. So slow down; say no more often; be more strategic. Don’t let obliviousness to what really matters, or reaching for what doesn’t, slow down all your hard-won momentum.

Don’t forget what got you here … One last simple reminder: Don’t forget the positive habits that brought you to this level of success, and do not neglect the habits that you now know will take you to the next level.

PERFORMANCE PROMPTS

  1. An area where I am neglecting someone or something important in my life is …
  2. An area where that neglect will cause me regret later on is …
  3. An area where I can now return my focus, reallocating my attention to things that matter, is …
  4. Some areas in my life where I feel overcommitted right now are …
  5. The things I need to learn to say no to more often are …
  6. An opportunity I really want to chase right now that I could schedule to revisit in a few months is …
  7. The main things moving the needle toward my success that I should be focused on right now, despite all the other exciting interests and opportunities I could chase, are …
  8. The way I’ll remind myself not to take on too much is …

Tough Truths

The culprits tha steal your success are not lack of values or intelligence. The culprits are ultimately allocations of attention. You feel separate from others, so you stop paying attention to feedback, diverse viewpoints, new was of doing things. You get so good that you start noticing only what’s wrong, and a constant state of disappointment drains your passion. You rationalize neglecting one area of life so you can get ahead, saying it will be “worth it,” so you stop focusing on what really matters in life.

None of these things has to be your reality

Superiority, dissatisfaction, and neglect are your enemies. Let them invade your life, and you lose. Be vigilant, avoid them, and practice your HP6, and all will be well.

It’s always a difficult truth when we notice ourselves behaving in the negative ways we’ve discussed in this chapter. But if sustaining success is important to you, I encourage you to revisit this chapter often. It will keep you humble, satisfied, and focused. And it will allow you and others to enjoy what should be an extraordinary life and a joyous ascent to high performance.