Sacrificing (for) Performance: What You’re Really Giving Up

We high achievers are familiar with that feeling of being so loaded with work, so committed to not just doing what needs to be done but putting up slam dunks, “nailing it,” and out-performing everyone (including ourselves). And we all know that there are times when that MO turns us into a Tazmanian Devil of stress and worry.

As the anxiety grows, many of us have a “go to” survival approach that kicks in. We tacitly don our camouflage, grab our equipment and a maybe a few provisions, and we retreat. Our work approach goes primitive.

We dive into the bunker and we work—furiously, with great concern, determined, and usually quite aggressively. In this state of retreat we cut off our world outside. Family, friends, helpful co-workers, the fresh air, lunch, our exercise routines, anything fun and lighthearted…all of that, whether deliberately or not, shut out.

In this survival mode we become consumed with fear that if we are not vigilant and diligent we could lose our edge or miss our mark. We actually take comfort in this hideaway approach. And it seems to work. Holing up and burying ourselves as we churn out work got us this far, right?

We assume that sacrificing the external stuff is the price we pay to maintain our driven, high performer status. We expertly rationalize away the time and space we need.

And we may be blind to the full scope of our sacrifice.

We don’t realize that when we get into that heightened state of stress and choose to shut out the light we also shut off opportunity, resources, and support. Most of us do this with no awareness of what we’re doing and what it’s doing to us.

We don’t realize that we are turning away from exactly what we need to ensure that we can perform at our best now and into the future.

The very thing we’re doing to try to survive is actually compounding the exhaustion from the work, meetings, and pressure. When we let this undertow of expectation and busy suck us down, we respond by flailing against it, wearing ourselves out further, and diminishing our potential performance and happiness. And what’s crazy is that we do this again and again…over and over. We actually think it works!

Where we think we are sacrificing personal free time and connection in the service of outcomes and results at work, we are in fact undermining our resourcefulness, diminishing our creativity, and killing efficiency. In the end, we are putting at risk our most prized outcome—PERFORMANCE.

So, what do you do to maintain a solid hold on your performance advantage even during those most challenging times?

Changing this pattern starts with awareness. Be aware of when these old habits threaten and recognize that what you think you need to sacrifice to maintain your edge may be exactly what you need to turn toward.

Can you choose to take on the challenge and pressure with a different approach?

What do you have to lose?