High-Performing Women

The Common-Day Paradox for High-Performing Women

awesome aging awesome at any age emotional intelligence - self actualization fullfillment after 60 Aug 12, 2022

Many high performers would rather do the wrong things well than do the right thing poorly.”

~ Thomas J. DeLong and Sara DeLong, “The Paradox of Excellence,” Harvard Business Review, June 2011

When I reflect on previous blogs that I have written on the topic of peak performance, high achievers, and star performers, I am in awe of how we have lived and worked through significant change, have adapted, and have achieved some semblance of healthy resilience personally and professionally. Yet some basic desires, needs, and behaviours remain unchanged. This is what I see as a current-day paradox especially for women who are planning for fulfillment after 60.

Insatiable Desire for Brilliance

No doubt, women entrepreneurs and executives have insatiable desire (and a need) to achieve and continually grow in their personal and professional lives at every stage and age. Their desires and needs continue and intensify as they plan for fulfillment after 60. Desires and needs are not put on the proverbial shelf above a rocking chair. Therefore, you might be surprised (or not) to learn that many high achievers feel like they are floundering. They might feel overwhelmed by conflicting expectations, stereotypes, and discrimination as they are exposed to agism.

Many brilliant women have ascended to leadership roles only to reach a plateau in their professional growth. They might feel like they have fallen short on their potential and ability to maintain their status as a Star Performer. This creeping self-doubt profoundly affects their self-regard, self-actualization, and overall well-being.

Many women who are planning for fulfillment after 60, are looking for direction in navigating a world that is very different from what they envisioned a few decades ago or even a few years ago. These women are smart, ambitious professionals who have some doubt about what’s their next step in planning their "executive encore".

Appreciating Enduring Brilliance

I encounter high-achieving women every day in my work with women entrepreneurs and executives. They are awesome at every stage and every age. Their dreams, drive, and accomplishments are awe-inspiring. Their brilliance is the reason I continue to work exclusively with them. They inspire me, keep me sharp, and give me the opportunity to stay in touch with what I appreciate as my own enduring brilliance.

I do, however, meet many high-achieving women who feel burnt out and feel that their brilliance is fading. Throughout their careers, they have been known as and tagged as “high potential”. They should be flourishing and thriving, but I see their anxiety about maintaining that status. This anxiety is compromising their ability to continue to learn and grow with the awe and delight that they once possessed. Some lack resources and support. Loss of status and feeling like you are now “doing it alone” can blur your brilliance.

Also their fear of revealing any limitations can undermine their self-confidence and lead them to question the value and current-day validity of their skills and experience. Many know they can be doing better and are expected to be doing better. Unfortunately, many fail to ask for help. Fortunately, many take action and engage in coaching support.

If you’re a high achiever, then you are used to winning and accustomed to turning out remarkable performance. Mediocrity is not your game. A rocking chair is not your next investment in sporting equipment.

But what happens when you feel overwhelmed, burned out, or on an accelerating treadmill that’s going nowhere fast? Are you willing to ask for help? For example, when challenged by new technologies or strategic game changes, are you unwilling to admit it or do you dig in and refuse to ask for or accept help from others.

Paradoxically, many of the strengths that led you to the fast track in work and life can steer you toward poor performance and can exacerbate self-doubt and disappointment.

For references and resources connecting Interpersonal Relationships with Happiness, invest in your own copy of The EQ Edge - Emotional Intelligence and Your Success, Steven J. Stein, PH.D. and Howard E. Book M.D.

Your Next Steps:

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