Balancing Life as a High-Achieving and Authentic Individual
Type A individuals* are highly driven, competitive, achievement-oriented, and ambitious.
Although these are great characteristics to set and accomplish goals in career and life, the relentless pursuit of success and achievement can lead to burnout.
Burnout is a state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion that is caused by chronic stress and overwork. In this article, we will discuss why Type A achievers are more likely to burn out and how to avoid it.
Causes of Burnout in Type A Achievers:
1. Perfectionism Increases Stress
Type A individuals set high standards for themselves and strive for perfection in everything
they do. This can lead to an unrelenting sense of pressure and stress.
Wait, but isn't perfectionism good? Growing up I thought perfectionism was a trait. I was rewarded and praised by teachers and family for having perfect grades. And honestly being a straight-A student opened many doors in my life. By having a strong academic record, I was able to choose my preferred university and program in Brazil. This led to further opportunities, including earning a graduate degree at the University of Michigan and ultimately, securing a job in tech consulting in Silicon Valley.
Later on, as I advance into leadership roles in my career, I realized that the pursuit of perfection can also be a double-edged sword. Spending hours perfecting a PowerPoint presentation or building complex spreadsheets to calculate precise business cases may not result in a higher impact on clients, our business, and our teams.
Perfectionism is not the key to success. In fact, research shows that perfectionism hampers achievement. Perfectionism is correlated with depression, anxiety, addiction and life paralysis or missed opportunities. Brene Bown, Dare to Lead
2. Lack of Balance and Insufficient Self-Care Decreases Fulfilment
Type A individuals often have difficulty building a balanced life. They may over-prioritize careers, by working long hours and neglecting their physical and emotional well-being.
While not prioritizing time to recharge and rest - do I really need vacations and work breaks? - Type As may compromise their physical and mental wellness.
In the long run an unbalanced life can lead to a lack of fulfillment and happiness. Anchoring on external measurement of success, exacerbated by social media, increases the issue.
3. Unmanageable Workload and Perceived Lack of Control Lead to Burnout
Type A individuals may take on more work than they can handle, to prove themselves. This is especially true for minorities, who intrinsically think that they need to work harder to show their worth and value to the organization. Even when feeling overwhelmed, they may not seek help, as that could signal weakness.
Perceived lack of control over workload due to micromanaging leads also causes burnout according to Jennifer Moss in the Burnout Epidemic Book.
How can Type A's channel their energy and drive to accomplish their goals while cultivating healthy habits? Here are 3 strategies to avoid burnout and thrive as a Type A:
1. Define and Pursue Your Version of Balance and Success
Divas are authentics and trendsetters. Defining your version of balance and success and refraining from comparisons should be a top priority in your Diva journey.
Having a clear view of what balance and success mean to you will serve as guidelines for your goal-setting and will prevent you to spend energy on social media comparing yourself to others without having the full picture of their lives. A new title on LinkedIn, or a happy vacation trip on Instagram is a fraction of someone else's reality that should not interfere with your energy or goals.
You should be using your focus and competitiveness to strive for better results for yourself aligned with your unique aspirations.
2. Stand by Your Priorities
Avoid overcommitting and setting unrealistic expectations. Instead, focus on setting goals aligned with your priorities and say no to the rest.
Setting clear boundaries in all areas of your life will avoid you to overwork and strive for perfection in areas that will not help you to achieve balance and success.
My priority in the morning is to have a healthy routine, including meditation and exercising, which will prepare me for the rest of my day, physically and emotionally. I have blocked my work calendar before 9 AM to enable this to happen and I just take meetings before this time if they are truly urgent or if I need to talk to someone in a different time zone.
I know this behavior will increase my productivity and motivation at work and I don't need external validation.
Practice Self-Awareness and Self-Compassion
Taking a few minutes each day to practice mindfulness meditation, can help reduce stress, increase self-awareness, and improve emotional regulation.
In addition to meditation, engage in activities that allow you to be present in the moment and cultivate a sense of well-being, such as yoga, gardening, or spending time in nature. For some people, sports like running and swimming can also be mindful activities.
Being mindful will help to create self-compassion. Type As tend to place high expectations on themselves leading to the endless pursuit of perfectionism which can prevent them to achieve their goals. Removing the ego from the equation and prioritizing kindness toward yourself will help to move past challenges and seatbacks and keep the focus on fulfillment and life success.
Need help defining the change you want and designing a life aligned with your purpose? We can help you with one-on-one advisory sessions focused on Career Strategy and Executive Life Performance. Check out our services on the Type A Performance website.
*Although the distinction between Type A and Type B personalities is controversial due to the lack of research data and oversimplification. In this article, we are considering the widespread definition of Type A while including the empirical perception regarding the behavior of high-achievers.