The Comparer – final (over)achievement archetype

We’ve come the end in our series Achievement patterns and strategies with the Comparer.

The Comparer lives by the words: ‘The grass is always greener… ’.

Comparison is nothing new. In 1954 Festinger came up with the social comparison theory. At the core of his theory is the idea that people come to know about themselves—their own abilities, successes, and personality—by comparing themselves with others. It’s central to our need for acceptance and belonging.

But the Comparer archetype takes this behaviour to the extremes. Comparers have a clear view of what life should be like and constantly compare themselves to others. They make sure their Instagram feeds are perfectly color coded and are at risk of being addicted to social media.

As a Comparer you also want to be perfect IRL and try to say clever things, be helpful and serve the right food at dinner parties. If people around you are unwell you risk missing the signs and often don’t observe your own signals of stress either.

Drivers and Fears:
      • Low self-esteem
      • Fear of being abandoned
      • Fear of rejection
How to overcome:
      1. Do a Social media detox – really! Here are a few tips:
          1. a)    Give your digital devices a bedtime.b)    Start a new morning habit.c)    Delete your social media apps.

            d)    Replace social media time with a new hobby or activity.

            e)    Break the habit of reaching for your phone.

            f)      Use technology for reasons other than scrolling social media.

            g)    Pay attention to the media you consume.

            h)    Spend more time observing the world around you.

            i)      Track your progress.

            j)      Set yourself reminders to not check social media.

      1. 2. Learn to spot the bottom of the iceberg. When you find yourself comparing, turn the tables around and ask yourself what the other person might admire in you. We can never really understand someone else’s reality, struggles and insecurities just as they might not have all your strengths in sight.3. Practice Meditation

 

Ok, so those were the 6 (over)achievement archetypes.

I use this model a lot in my coaching practice and it’s central to the Achievement Detox program. Often clients tell me that they can relate to several archetypes but when looking into the driver and fears it often becomes clear which overachievement strategy they use the most.

And that’s where we focus in with behavioural experiments.

Because as with all behavioural change, we need to work through the 3As:

      1. First we need to be AWARE of our behaviours and cognitions
      2. Then we need to ACCEPT the situation
      3. But nothing will change unless we ACT – we need to try and evaluate new strategies and slowly build new behaviours.

I hope you have enjoyed the series. If you would like more information or would like to work with me as a coach, please Get in touch

The Competitor – 5th (over)achievement archetype

Motto: ‘winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing’.

Competitors see life as a race and always try to be just that little bit better than everyone else.

If you identify as a Competitor achievement archetype you often ignore your own basic needs such as sleep and food.

You sometimes come across as judgmental and go to extreme lengths to hide your own failures and shortcomings. You often step on people’s toes.

There is a lot of shame involved in this achievement strategy and the competitor risks ending up a lonely person. If a person hinges all their value on winning, who are they when they lose or cannot even compete anymore?

Drivers and Fears:
      • The belief that the one who is best gets all the rewards
      • Fear of feeling worthless
      • The belief that you are only loved and accepted when you win
How to overcome:
      1. Understand your insecurities. Our insecurities fuel competitive, jealous feelings. These insecurities may have developed in our younger years because of experiences that made us feel unworthy. Reflect on or speak to a therapist about what your family motto was growing up and which events shaped you.
      1. Do a cost /benefit analysis. What is this behaviour costing you in productivity, creativity? What is it costing the people you hurt? How is your lack of vulnerability effecting your leadership?
      1. Define your own success and standards. Instead of using others’ accomplishments as benchmarks for success, get clear on what success means to you, what your goals are and, critically, how you would like to get there? (read how many toes you are willing to step on).

Where do you draw the line between healthy ambition and unhealthy competitiveness?

Final piece in our series of (over)achievement archetypes: The Comparer. (yes, it will mention social media detox)

Ⓒ Vallin 2021. All rights reserved

The Constant Achiever – (over)achievement archetype 4

This is probably the achiever archetype I identify the most with. People who are Constant Achievers (and I at times) live by the motto:

You can rest when you’re dead’.

The constant achiever is a multi-tasker who always juggles several big projects. If you identify as a constant achiever work is always on your mind and you are likely checking emails around the clock.

In your spare time, you renovate your apartment, take a language course or prepare for a marathon (yep, yep and yep)

Everything you do has a purpose and a goal. Your to-do list is your comfort blanket and you likely to most things in life very quickly. As a consequence the constant achiever is rarely in the moment and at high risk of burnout.

Drivers and Fears:
      • Achievement as a safe zone.
      • Addiction to the ‘high’ of achievement.
      • It is uncomfortable to take it easy, laziness is frowned upon.
      • Fear of stopping development.
How to overcome:
    • Get clear on the negative consequences of constantly achieving. List what it does to your health, relationships, and results.
    • Practice self compassion. Start with: Avoid saying and thinking judgmental things about yourself, spend time doing things you enjoy, Letting go of external validation.
    • Behavioral Experiments: This part was central to the ‘achievement detox’ I did a few years ago to limit the damage my achievement addiction. I embarked on a 1 year experiment during which I took on a very junior role at work and banned all achievement focus from my life. It was an eyeopener but also a very painful experience. In Cognitive Behavioral Therapy we instead recommend smaller experiments such as:
      • Post on LinkedIn and stop yourself from checking the results for 24 hours 😉.
      • Have a dinner party without meticulously preparing the food.
      • Swim on the slowest lane and allow yourself to be overtaken by everyone

Yep, have tried all three and for a Constant Achiever, it’s hard work and something we need to keep practicing.

Next up: The Competitor

 

 

 

‘Walkflection’ – Last Thursday every month @8:30am, Djurgården, Stockholm

Most of us know which activities keep us healthy and protect us from negative stress. Yet, we so often neglect them:

    • Meaningful conversations
    • Exercise
    • Reflection
    • Nature

Introducing ‘Walkflections’ = Walk + Reflection

As Margaret Wheatley said:

“Without reflection, we go blindly on our way, creating more unintended consequences, and failing to achieve anything useful.”

We meet on the last Thursday of each month at 8:30 am at Blå Porten by  Djurgårdsbron for one hour of walking, reflection and meaningful conversations.

New dates for autumn 2021: 26 August, 30 September

I will share a model or piece of research on the topic of self leadership, we set off on a walk on Djurgården in pairs or groups of three (at a safe distance from each other). We stop halfway and share our reflections; I might pose a new questions and we switch walking partners.

We are back at 9:30 at Djurgårdsbron so you can get to work or cycle home filled with:

    • New perspectives and insights
    • Energy and inspiration
    • New connections
    • Actions for the coming month

Participation is free but to ensure we limit the group size, please reserve our spot below or let me know on: kontakt@emmavallin.se, 070919534. Maximum 10 people.

We speak both Swedish and English 🙂

Reserve your spot

The Perfectionist – (Over)achiever archetype 1

Motto: ‘Anything in life worth doing is worth overdoing’.

This achievement strategy is about doing everything to perfection, keeping your promise and never ever handing anything in half-baked. Perfectionists often respond to emails immediately so no one has to wait and tend to compensate for the shortcomings of others.

These overachievers scan the reactions of others to pick up any signs of irritation or disappointment so they can figure out a way to correct it. They have a clear view of what life should be like and how we should behave as individuals.

Just like their overachiever cousins – the Comparison Junkies – the Perfectionists keep track of everyone on social media and compare themselves all the time. On a bad day they can spend 60 minutes writing and rewriting a two-sentence email. Chronic procrastination could be the result of perfectionism.

Drivers and Fears:
      • Fear of failure
      • Fear others upsetting others
      • If I make a mistake, it will lead to a catastrophe
      • I am the reason others feel bad
      • If I do everything right I am accepted/loved
How to overcome it?
      1. Practice realistic thinking. Because perfectionists are often very critical of themselves, one of the most effective ways to overcome perfectionism is to replace self-critical thoughts with more realistic and helpful statements. Some examples of positive realistic statements: Everyone makes mistakes! Nobody is perfect!, All I can do is my best!
      2. Changing perspective: Perfectionists tend to have a hard time seeing things from another person’s point of view. Start by asking yourself: How might someone else (e.g. a close friend) view this situation? What might I tell a close friend who was having similar thoughts?
      3. Exposure: Having a problem with perfectionism is a lot like having a “phobia” of making mistakes or being imperfect – you get paralyzed by the thought of making mistakes. Exposure is an effective method to overcome your perfectionism, here are some examples of simple exposure practice:
        • Show up for an appointment 15 minutes late.
        • Tell people when you are tired (or other feelings that you consider a weakness).
        • Wear a piece of clothing that has a visible stain on it.
        • Lose your train of thought during a presentation.
        • Try a new restaurant without first researching how good it is.

If your perfectionism or other overachiever strategies hold you back and you would like to develop heathier behaviors and strategies – book a free consultation with me and we’ll take it from there.

PS: My own exposure practice while writing this post was to only read through once before publishing 🙂

Next up on the series of overachiever archetypes: The Controller.

Overachievement Archetypes. © 2021 Emma Vallin. All rights reserved.

The Controller – (Over)achiever archetype 2

Motto: ‘If you want a thing done well, do it yourself’

Achievement by control is about keeping a close eye on everything and everyone around you. If you identify with the Controller archetype you probably know exactly what will happen on Tuesday in 3 weeks and love writing lists and plans.

You prefer to take care of most things yourself and delegation and collaboration could be a challenge for you. The Controller can have a hard time dealing with unexpected events.

Due to their challenge with collaboration and delegation, Controllers risk losing valuable input and inspiration from people around them. In extreme cases they could end up alienating colleagues and friends.

Drivers and Fears:
      • Fear of losing control
      • Fear of uncertainty
      • Will to succeed
How to overcome:
      1. Educate yourself about anxiety and control. Rather than falling back on control as a defense against uncertainty, learn all you can about the fear that is driving you to micromanage. Read books or see a therapist.

2. Ask yourself how effective controlling really is. For example, is asking your teenage son whether he’s brushed his teeth every morning an effective way to make him take responsibility for his dental care? If not, stop and rethink your approach.

3. Ban control-oriented language from your vocabulary. For example, unsolicited advice or criticizing someone’s perspective. Altering your language takes courage, and you must commend yourself for learning how to let go of control.

What advise would you give a Controller? If you identify as one, how do you overcome your need to control?

Next up: The worrying problem solver

Overachievement Archetypes. © 2021 Emma Vallin. All rights reserved.

The Worrying Problem Solver – (Over)achiever archetype 3

‘Spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions’

This achievement strategy is about never leaving anything unresolved. If you identify as worrying problem solver you often experience anxiety and negative stress when facing a challenging problem.

On top of the anxiety the issue with this approach is that it’s very ineffective. When the brain’s threat system is switched on you are unlikely to find constructive solutions.

The result is a behavior that is motivated by getting rid of discomfort. In the short term, it feels better to dwell on the problem than to leave it.

Drivers and Fears:
      • The dopamine kick of solving things.
      • Inability to deal with the discomfort of disappointment.
      • A tendency to catastrophize.
      • Fear of failure.
How to overcome:

1.Recognize the difference between worrying and productive problem solving. Here are some signs that you might be worrying:

      • You dismiss all your solutions as ineffective.
      • You are tense, distressed, and upset.
      • You spend a lot of time focusing on how things could go terribly wrong.

2. To get out of worrying-mode. Try taking some slow breaths from your diaphragm and relax. If that doesn’t help, take a break (go for a run, Clean the toilet). Come back to the problem when you’ve had a chance to settle down.

3. Put negative thoughts into a drawer. If you still find yourself slipping into negative thinking. Let the thoughts come, then mentally put them into a drawer, lock it and tell yourself you can open the draw again in an hour. In the meanwhile focus on positive ways to solve the problem.

Have you experienced periods of worrying and anxiety? What tips would you give to someone who is a worrying problem solver?

Next up: The Constant Achiever

6 (Over)Achievement Archetypes

Overachievers can accomplish great things but always need to do more. As they constantly raise the bar, the cost for reaching their goals eventually outweigh the rewards. Although overachievers tend to do well early on in their careers, at some point they start questioning the value of their constant hustle. In addition, research shows that achievement-orientation significantly increases the risk of burnout*.

Learning how to achieve sustainably is not only critical to our performance and well-being but affects the people we work with as well.

Overachievement Archetypes. © 2021 Emma Vallin. All rights reserved.

In a series of posts, I will discuss six achievement archetypes or patterns, identified through years of coaching high achievers and from my own ‘achievement detox’.

Which archetype (if any) do you most identify with?
      • THE COMPARISON JUNKIE. Lives by the motto: ‘Grass is always greener…’
      • THE CONTROLLER. ‘If you want a thing done well, do it yourself’
      • THE PERFECTIONST.  ‘Anything in life worth doing is worth overdoing’
      • THE COMPETITOR. ‘Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing’
      • THE CONTANT ACHIEVER. ‘I will rest when I’m dead’
      • THE WORRYING PROBLEMSOLVER. ‘Spend 55 min worrying about the problem and 5 min thinking about solutions’

I will share the drivers and fears behind each archetypes and would love to discuss what strategies you use to balancing them out.

I would love to have your input and hear your reflections on this topic!

Importantly, it’s NOT about giving up on being a high achiever, it’s about developing a dimmer to your superpower so that you can achieve sustainably, on your terms.

I use this framework a lot in my Achievement Detox Coaching Program and  when coaching business leaders. I find it very useful for identifying underlying fears and drivers and changing negative behaviors.

Happy reading!

*Canadian Journal of Nursing 2019, Vulnerability and Stressors for Burnout

Spring is in the air – time to invest in yourself?

Japanese Cherry Blossom season is soon upon us. ‘Sakura’ reminds us that life is precious and short and must not be wasted. The beautiful blossom which last only for a couple of days is a reminder to focus on what is important.

Do you want to find ways to reduce negative stress? Are you interesting in sustainable achievement? Or perhaps you are exploring career options?

After a year of homework and family bubbles, many are seeing light in the end of the tunnel and starting to think about new challenges and goals.

Offer: 3 coachingsessions for SEK1800

I’m currently offering a package of 3 sessions for SEK 1,800 (Value SEK 2,700) to new clients. Sessions are 50 minutes and done over Zoom. (Friskvårdsbidrag valid in Sweden).

Coaching can help you:

      • Clarify purpose and goals
      • Challenge negative behaviors and patterns
      • Prevent burnout
      • Get a clear plan with support and motivation for change

Interested? Get in touch on: kontakt@emmavallin.se +46 709195374

Feedback from previous clients:

”I am progressing through a change in career, exploring new opportunities in maybe even new sectors. Coaching with Emma have provided me with interesting tools and exercises to explore the right direction. I would strongly recommend anyone in a similar situation – taking on uncertainty – to explore this type of positive and unconditional coaching.” Willeke, UK

“During our conversations Emma was always committed, well prepared and ready to challenge me. I experience Emma as an incredibly warm, humble, curious and driven person who is genuinely interested in helping other people. I could really recommend Emma as a coach! Kristin, Stockholm

*Offer valid until March 31st 2021. Purchased sessions to be used within 1 year. New customers only. Digital coaching calls via Zoom. Payment by Swish or invoice. Appointments booked on kontakt@emmavallin.se or +46 709195374. 24h cancellation policy. 

Is our constant ‘doing’ keeping us from ‘being’?

“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing. A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days.” — Annie Dillard

I had to read that quote a couple of times before I really understood the meaning of it. ‘It is a net catching days’. That is both such a beautifully poetic and scarily dark at the same time.

When you think about it, if we spend our whole lives constantly doing, planning, worrying, working, chasing (I can think of too many action filled verbs), are we actually living our lives or just managing them?

I moved to Rome, Italy when I was 19. I was stunned by the Romans love for the good life and talent for just being, enjoying and indulging. (Along with their double-parking skills). However exotic I found the culture, I was often frustrated with the 30 minutes it often took to say goodbye to friends outside the restaurant, or the four-hour lunches at someone’s parents.

My Scandinavian individualism, punctuality and love for schedules often clashed with my warm, social and sometimes chaotic group of friends.

Now, I’m the first to admit that my five-year plans in excel or my habit of setting 100-day goals at any new job has taken me further than my 19-year old self could have imagined.  It has allowed me to work and live in four countries, meet fascinating people and learn the most unexpected things about myself and the world.

But a few years ago I started asking myself if this need for individual success and purpose, this constant scheduling and planning is really keeping us from living our lives.

We of course need both ebb and flow – without hunger and drive to achieve we would miss out on a lot of great experience and personal growth. But at what point do we turn on this doing-autopilot and stop appreciating the now? And however painful the answer might be, we sometimes need to stop and ask ourselves:

Is our constant ‘doing’ keeping us from ‘being’?

Just think back to the best conversations you’ve had with a friend. Or those Friday drinks with colleagues who ended in a crazy all-nighter (in my case often at the Piano Bar in London). Or perhaps playing hide and seek with a 3-years old (they are really rubbish at this game). – What do these experiences have in common?

      • They were not planned.
      • They were not likely part of your 3-months objectives.
      • They were spent with people close to you.

Although the pandemic is certainly not helping with the spontaneity and social interactions, try experimenting with a less rigid schedule, less obsession with productivity and the mentality of constant doing. Try instead doing what you feel like once in a while and make sure you stop to appreciate it. When the urge to write that to-do list comes again, and it will, ask yourself:

      • What do you fear will happen if you stop ‘doing’?
      • What do you think will happen to your life if you relax the grip on that proverbial stick?
      • Who are you ‘doing’ these things for and will they thank you for it at your funeral?

If we turned off the ‘doing-autopilot’ for a while and thought about what is really important, what we really want more of in our lives, I bet our days would look very different.

 

Nervous and exciting Dry Run of my new Webinar

Had a dry run of my new webinar; Achievement Detox last night. A couple of amazing friends were my guinea pigs and gave me really useful feedback!

All went well except a couple of technical hiccups.

Next week is the first session with a larger audience! Fingers crossed MicrosoftTeams works better for me then.

So far the webinar is only in Swedish but I’m introducing an English version after the summer.

If you or your company are interested in achievement addiction and need inspiration for your work with creating a sustainable work culture – do let me know. Happy to tailor workshops or webinars to your needs.

An unexpected cure for ‘Hurry Sickness’

Are you the kind of person who cleans the bathroom while brushing your teeth? Move from one check-out line to another when shopping? Sit at the back of the room during work presentations so that you can finish that budget sheet? Chances are you’re suffering from ‘hurry sickness’.

People with ‘hurry sickness’ are multitasking masters, they think, walk and speak fast

What Is Hurry Sickness?

Two American cardiologist first came up with the term when they found a correlation between typical type A behavior and heart disease. People with ‘hurry sickness’ are multitasking masters, they think, speak and even walk fast and get very impatient with anyone or anything wasting their time. Sounds familiar? You’re not alone – a London Business School study found that 95 percent of the managers in a study suffer from the condition.

Is it really that bad for you?

Being busy is often seen as a virtue but when it becomes a constant time urgency you lose your ability to stop and think, and as a result become less effective. You lose sight of the “big picture,” and risk alienating people around you. Not to mention the physiological and mental health risks that come with constant stress.

Quitting the hurry game is really about finding a dimmer for your ‘get-shit-done’ superpower

 

Why is it so hard to quit the hurry game?

From an early age we are rewarded for doing, achieving and winning. In high paced industries and corporate environments, it’s often a prerequisite for success, as many of us can relate to. Getting lots done is a kind of superpower that has likely made you pretty successful in your career. So why doesn’t it take you further or make you happier? Think of it as running a marathon at sprint pace. It might give you a lead early on in your life or career, but it certainly won’t make you either successful or indeed, alive as the race goes on. It’s less about quitting the hurry game and more about finding a dimmer for your ‘get-shit-done’ superpower. You need to learn how to dial up and down your hurriedness. Of course, it’s great to be able to switch it on for that big deadline or when you’re trying to get 2 small children out the door. But the default setting in your life needs to be less rushed and you need to learn how to dim the light completely.

The unexpected cure – being pregnant!

I’m a classic hurry sick person who have spent my life chasing efficiencies and trying to do things faster and better. From doing my Kegel exercises in the lift to conference calls in the gym. It wasn’t until I got pregnant with my first child that I learnt how to live slow. I suffered from severe pelvic girdle pain and could hardly walk. From being someone who would always walk /run up the tube escalator, I suddenly missed my bus every day for being to slow. I even found myself being overtaken by seniors in the slowest lane in the swimming pool. I have often thought it was natures cruel way to cure me from my hurry sickness before having children. I have to admit the relief was temporary, as a mother of 2 children under 3 years of age I often find myself multitasking in the most ridiculous ways. But I am now a sober hurry addict and I can dial up and down my busyness and speed. I finally have a dimmer!

Other ways to cure hurry sickness

If pregnancy with pelvic girdle pain doesn’t sound temping or just isn’t in the cards for you, here are some tips on how to fight hurry sickness:

    1. Practice doing one everyday thing slowly – it could be the dishes or walking to work. How does that make you feel?
    2. Question the value of your urgency – What difference will it make if you answer that email tonight? How important is it in the grand scheme of thing?
    3. Write down the flip side of your hurrying. What are you missing out on when you rush around? What effects on your health do you see? Who are you hurting?
    4. Trick the system with breathing right. When you’re feeling particularly flushed, take some deep breaths (inhale for 3 counts, exhale for 5). This activates the parasympathetic nervous system (the break system) and reduces the stress hormone cortisol.

Let’s make 2020 a slow year!

SPA 2 ways

My partner and I went to a SPA last weekend. It was a birthday gift from my mom and sister, which also included their babysitting services. A big deal since it was the first night away from both kids and potentially the first full night of sleep for me in over a year!

Most toddler parents know that there is a pre/post children dimension to most things in life (going to the shops, showering, eating, getting dressed, doing number 2…). But the difference when it comes to a spa experience only really became clear after listening to the following conversation in the changing room:

The spa weekend girls:

Spa girl 1: I love your bikini!

Spa girl 2: Really? Thanks. It took me an hour to choose. The stress…

Spa girl 3: Should we bring the clay masques into the spa? We might feel like using them at once.

Spa girl 1: Oh, I don’t know. We have no idea how we’ll feel while in there. Oooh, this doesn’t feel good at all! Can’t we just chill and see how we feel?

The parents:

My mom texted that one of the boys was up all night and one of them is now throwing up.

My partner: My tummy feels funny as well.

Me: Can we pretend we didn’t get the message yet and stay in the pool for a while?

My partner: Your bikini is torn.

Me: You should be happy I almost had time to finish shaving my legs.


I listen with fascination to the girls and admire their full toilet bags. I quickly put on my randomly selected clothes as the vomiting situation at home is deteriorating. I grab a handful of free body lotion on my way out and slap it onto my forehead as if to say: you should be happy you have time for anxiety and even time to chat about it! 

Different worlds indeed.

And despite the vomiting bonanza I wouldn’t have it any other way.

 

Pavlov’s thoughts on my bike

My bike was stolen yesterday.

It’s definitely not the first time; I think I had 3 bikes stolen during my time in London and God knows how many in Uppsala! Unfortunately I had locked the bike in the front wheel only. Rocky mistake according to my partner who said I might as well have put up a sign for the thieves.

The thief kindly left my front wheel behind

The irony is that the bike was stolen outside the venue of my psychotherapist course, on the exact day of the Pavlovian Theory lecture. You know the guy who discovered dogs could be conditioned to drool at the sound of a bell.

The thief kindly left my front wheel

We discussed how a victim who suffered an assault could develop a phobia of for example balloons if balloons were present at the time of the assault. Classic conditioning. But apparently I cannot learn that a poorly locked up bike in an urban environment is likely to be stolen. I assume the level of pain involved could be a factor but we didn’t get that far in the lecture.

I’m only on day 4 of the course and I hope it becomes clearer!

If I finally learnt how to lock my bike up remains to be seen.