What is an ‘over-achiever’?

What is an ‘over-achiever’?

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Why is ambition for some, a negative trait?

Why are so many people quick to label ambitious individuals as ‘overachievers’ or ‘workaholics’?

As somebody with a LOT of ambition and who values personal growth and development, I have been called both of these often throughout my life – even by bosses and coaches who both directly benefitted form my passion and energy for my work!!

In my opinion, the pejorative connotation in these negative and judgemental labels undermines the positive aspects of hard work, dedication, and ambition.

To start, these terms—”overachiever” and “workaholic”—imply that there’s a universally acceptable standard or norm from which these people deviate.

What line exactly are these people going’ over’??

Who are these ‘Achievement Police’ who have made this law that some of us must NOT go for our own dreams and our own definitions of success?

What exactly is the measure of ‘achievement’ if there is a label that says there is ‘too much’ achievement one person can attain?

The label of overachievement presumes the existence of a definitive ‘achievement line’ that everyone is supposed to toe.

But everyone has their own capacities, aspirations, and standards of achievement.

Psychologists like Carl Rogers, who developed the concept of Self-Actualisation, argue that humans are driven by an inherent desire to fulfill their potential and capacities.

People’s pace and approach towards their work are influenced by their own personal aspirations, resources, and constraints.

What might be progress for me, might be an under-performance to you.

And don’t even get me started on the word ‘workaholic’!!!

This label literally implies addiction, akin to the illness of alcoholism or a drug addiction.

A workaholic is typically defined as a person who works compulsively and cannot control their addiction to keep working despite substantial negative impacts on their life from their inability to manage their behaviours.

This is NOT the definition of an ambitious, well-balanced, controlled and methodical person who is living out their passion and gaining exponential joy and rewards from their vocation.

Do NOT assume that anyone who is getting results in their life, as per their own definition, as having been attained by a compulsive, uncontrollable and manic malfunction.

Having vigor, dedication and deep ‘flow’ in ones work is NOT workaholism.

Engagement and flow feeds effortless commitment, not because of a ‘sickness’, but because the work being done is fulfilling and meaningful to that individual.

When you add to that the concept of ‘Prosocial Motivation’ – basically meaning a drive to benefit others through your work, you get even higher performance, because such an extrinsic purpose gives yet more meaning to the work outcomes that extend far beyond the self.

Where addictions (as implied by the terms over-achieving and workaholism) are self-serving, people who are in flow and have high pro-social motivation give far more to others than the ones dishing out the judgemental labels.

Society’s inclination to label ambitious individuals as ‘overachievers’ or ‘workaholics’ in my opinion, stems from fear, discomfort, or even envy towards people who perform at higher levels.

How about we all stop comparing ourselves to others and respect individual differences in pace, ambition, and motivation – instead of attempting to standardise them against some glass ceiling that suffocates human progression.

Instead of stigmatizing high achievers, we should create an environment where individual differences in ambition and pace are celebrated.

If I’m going faster than you, I’m not ‘going TOO fast’ and nor should I ‘slow down’ to make you feel more comfortable about your chosen speed.

We each travel at our own speeds, and BOTH of those are totally ok, totally perfect and both to be celebrated equally.

Everyone has their unique journey, and it’s important to understand that there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to achievement and success.


So to every boss, coach and Judgey Mc-Judgerson who has told me that I am ‘too much’ and I do ‘too much’…… UP YA BUM! (as we say in Australia).joy



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