Motivated by Achievement: a Blessing and a Curse

I have been motivated by achievement for 25 years. It is all I have ever known. It has worked very well for me – I got straight As throughout high school and college, finished UCLA in three years with a double-major, college honors and Phi Beta Kappa. I moved quickly up the ladder at Google, completed training to be a life coach, ran a marathon and bought a house – all while building and growing side projects like this blog and my book-in-progress. I am not sharing this with you to brag – I am sharing it because I am exhausted. I don’t know how I can maintain this pace for the rest of my life, or if I even want to. But when I think about stepping off the fast-track, I panic. It absolutely terrifies me because achievement is all I have ever known.

Being motivated by achievement has been an incredible blessing – I’ve set big goals and reached them. And with each accomplishment I felt great…until I moved onto the next one, always wanting more. Which is why it has also been a curse. In many ways I feel defined by what I do, not who I am. I often feel defined by my job and the work that I do (either at Google or here on this blog).

To an extent, I think many of us are motivated by achievement, just to varying degrees. I would guess that you are more motivated by achievement than the average person because you are here learning, reading, and looking to get more out of your life. I know that many of you have blogs and side projects and big dreams that you are reaching toward.

When I took the Strengthsfinder personality test, Achiever was in my top five strengths. Below is some background information, adapted from the book, that you may relate to and/or find interesting.

Strengthsfinder “Achiever” Theme Description:

Description of the Achiever:

“People who are especially talented in the Achiever theme have a great deal of stamina and work hard. They take great satisfaction from being busy and productive.  Chances are good that you approach your work-related or academic assignments with a great deal of intensity. You are known for putting in long hours and working hard. Instinctively, you naturally concentrate your physical and mental energies on doing whatever needs to be done right now. You have a natural gift for living in the moment. This explains why you need to produce meaningful results each day.

Because of your strengths, you sometimes dive into challenging situations because you trust yourself to survive or excel. Maybe you know that you have the talent to deal with obstacles or hazards as you encounter them. Launching new ventures might thrill you. Tackling impossible goals might energize you. Stepping out of your comfort zone into unfamiliar territory might stimulate you. You try to make the best use of your mental or physical capabilities. Driven by your talents, you routinely contrive innovative ideas. The art of invention stimulates your mind. You likely spring from one original thought to an entirely different one. You usually find unique ways to link two or more concepts.”

The Blessing (my words):

  • You do not require much motivation from others.
  • You set challenging goals for yourself.
  • A full workload excites you.
  • The prospect of what lies ahead is infinitely more motivating than what has been completed.
  • You enjoy launching initiatives and new projects.
  • Your seemingly endless reserve of energy creates enthusiasm and momentum.

The Curse (my words):

  • Achievers tend to move on to the next challenge without acknowledging their successes.
  • You may have intense feelings of restlessness, never satisfied with the status quo.
  • You have a hard time “enjoying the present moment” because you are so focused on the future.
  • You probably have to work harder than most at building a life outside of your job, because accomplishment and task-driven achievement is so satisfying.

Quotes from the Book:

  • Ted S., salesperson: “Last year I was salesperson of the year out of my company’s three hundred salespeople. It felt good for a day, but sure enough, later that week, it was as if it never happened. I was back at zero again. Sometimes I wish I wasn’t an achiever because it can lead me away from a balanced life and toward obsession. I used to think I could change myself, but now I know I am just wired this way. This theme is truly a double-edged sword. It helps me achieve my goals, but on the other hand, I wish I could just turn it off and on at will. But, hey, I can’t. I can manage it and avoid work obsession by focusing on achieving in all parts of my life, not just work.”
  • Sara L., writer: “This theme is a weird one. First, it’s good because you live in pursuit of the perpetual challenge. But in the second place, you never feel as though you’ve reached your goal. It can keep you running uphill at seventy miles an hour for your whole life. You never rest because there’s always more to do. But, on balance, I think I would rather have it than not. I call it my ‘divine restlessness,’ and if it makes me feel as if I owe the present everything I have, then so be it. I can live with that.”

So what does this mean?
I make a conscious effort to be thankful for my abilities and to recognize myself for my achievements. I try to enjoy the present moment rather than always focus on the future. But what does all this really mean? Call it a quarterlife crisis, but for me it means I need to think long and hard about the kind of life I want to live. Is constantly planning, working and obsessing over my next bigger and better achievement really going to create meaning and add value to my life? Maybe yes, maybe no. I am still figuring it out.

56 comments

Categories: BooksCareerGoalsLife

  • http://www.carlablumenthal.com/ Carla Blumenthal

    Jenny-

    I think you have hit the “achiever’s dilemma” right on the head. Being an ‘achiever’ means always looking for the next project, the new opportunity, new challenge. I too struggle with the present-future dichotomy. Somehow there is this pressure (perhaps self-inflicted) on us to achieve so much in our twenties. I often get jealous of peers who are comfortable just having a job or going to school. I get bored when I do what I am comfortable with everyday.

    I also feel that this dilemma is part of our culture. America values individualism and achievement of the self. Achievements often determine self-worth. This has the potential to be unhealthy. We should strive to be the best we can, but also derive our sense of self by looking at the change we are creating in the world around us. At least that is my daily challenge!

    Thanks for sharing, Jenny. Really hit home for me.
    -Carla

  • http://www.carlablumenthal.com Carla Blumenthal

    Jenny-

    I think you have hit the “achiever’s dilemma” right on the head. Being an ‘achiever’ means always looking for the next project, the new opportunity, new challenge. I too struggle with the present-future dichotomy. Somehow there is this pressure (perhaps self-inflicted) on us to achieve so much in our twenties. I often get jealous of peers who are comfortable just having a job or going to school. I get bored when I do what I am comfortable with everyday.

    I also feel that this dilemma is part of our culture. America values individualism and achievement of the self. Achievements often determine self-worth. This has the potential to be unhealthy. We should strive to be the best we can, but also derive our sense of self by looking at the change we are creating in the world around us. At least that is my daily challenge!

    Thanks for sharing, Jenny. Really hit home for me.
    -Carla

  • http://www.lifeaftercollege.org/ Jenny

    Carla – Thank you so much for the comment. I completely agree that this dilemma is rooted in our culture, which for the most part seems to value work, achievement and individual success.

    When I was writing this post, I wondered if we are all struck by the “Achiever’s Dilemma” (I like how you phrased that!) or if it really is a personality type. Probably a little bit of both.

    I would never trade in my drive or passion, and just like you I could never be happy sitting around all day without a vocation, but I’m definitely still in the process of figuring out how to maintain a balanced life and build up my sense-of-self outside of work. I just bought a book called “The Working Life: The Promise and Betrayal of Modern Work” that talks about all of these issues – you might find the summary interesting.

    Thanks again for your great comment! :D

  • http://www.lifeaftercollege.org Jenny

    Carla – Thank you so much for the comment. I completely agree that this dilemma is rooted in our culture, which for the most part seems to value work, achievement and individual success.

    When I was writing this post, I wondered if we are all struck by the “Achiever’s Dilemma” (I like how you phrased that!) or if it really is a personality type. Probably a little bit of both.

    I would never trade in my drive or passion, and just like you I could never be happy sitting around all day without a vocation, but I’m definitely still in the process of figuring out how to maintain a balanced life and build up my sense-of-self outside of work. I just bought a book called “The Working Life: The Promise and Betrayal of Modern Work” that talks about all of these issues – you might find the summary interesting.

    Thanks again for your great comment! :D

  • http://www.smallhandsbigideas.blogspot.com/ Grace Boyle

    Jenny, I understand and agree with much of what you said. Sometimes I take a moment to breathe and I go, I’m so exhausted but I probably wouldn’t have it any other way. I know there’s more to come and that an “empty plate” isn’t satisfying to me.

    I’m going to check out Strength Finder. I think it’s very interesting to have a self-assessment of yourself, even when you think you know yourself maybe it’s validating or maybe it can teach you a thing or two about how to grow and change.

    Furthermore, what I have learned from my over-achieving mentality is that my personal life has become more and more important. I believe that I am motivated by my achievements, but I also find deep gratitude and motivation from my friends or family and the personal relationships I’ve created with them. So the balance. That is what I feel I need to establish. I do this in a few ways, like totally checking “offline” on Saturday’s (hard to do, but I have to) to take time for my friends or whatever I NEED to do for me. Even with this day, I still feel successful. I know that it recharges me, then brings me back to the 10 projects on my plate or the job that I excel in.

    Thanks for sharing Jenny. I wonder which strength I am.

  • http://www.smallhandsbigideas.blogspot.com Grace Boyle

    Jenny, I understand and agree with much of what you said. Sometimes I take a moment to breathe and I go, I’m so exhausted but I probably wouldn’t have it any other way. I know there’s more to come and that an “empty plate” isn’t satisfying to me.

    I’m going to check out Strength Finder. I think it’s very interesting to have a self-assessment of yourself, even when you think you know yourself maybe it’s validating or maybe it can teach you a thing or two about how to grow and change.

    Furthermore, what I have learned from my over-achieving mentality is that my personal life has become more and more important. I believe that I am motivated by my achievements, but I also find deep gratitude and motivation from my friends or family and the personal relationships I’ve created with them. So the balance. That is what I feel I need to establish. I do this in a few ways, like totally checking “offline” on Saturday’s (hard to do, but I have to) to take time for my friends or whatever I NEED to do for me. Even with this day, I still feel successful. I know that it recharges me, then brings me back to the 10 projects on my plate or the job that I excel in.

    Thanks for sharing Jenny. I wonder which strength I am.

  • http://akhila.wordpress.com/ Akhila

    Jenny, this is an amazing and honest post. I have to say that I completely identify with everything you’ve said and perhaps I too fall victim to this “Achiever’s Dilemma.” I definitely think I have the same problem, because I’m always planning long term about achievement academically and professionally, and am constantly thinking about how I can improve myself, make myself more competitive, and get more involved. I take on so many activities and projects and leadership positions that it can get overwhelming. And I’m never satisfied, always needing something more to “achieve.”

    I think what the problem is here is just learning to be happy with ourselves, who we are, and what we’ve accomplished. I think there’s nothing wrong in constantly pushing ourselves to do better; I do think it’s a part of our personality to be constantly craving achievement and being busy. But what we have to realize is at some point, what matters is that we focus on being happy with what we have, and focus on our loved ones. At the end of the day if you’re insanely successful but haven’t focused on taking care of yourself and your family/loved ones, it’s not going to be worth it since you’ll be alone and/or burned out. I think that we absolutely have to step back and take a deep breath and learn to just simply be happy with what we’ve achieved. Nothing wrong with this drive, but we can’t be totally consumed by it since that’s unhealthy.

  • http://akhila.wordpress.com Akhila

    Jenny, this is an amazing and honest post. I have to say that I completely identify with everything you’ve said and perhaps I too fall victim to this “Achiever’s Dilemma.” I definitely think I have the same problem, because I’m always planning long term about achievement academically and professionally, and am constantly thinking about how I can improve myself, make myself more competitive, and get more involved. I take on so many activities and projects and leadership positions that it can get overwhelming. And I’m never satisfied, always needing something more to “achieve.”

    I think what the problem is here is just learning to be happy with ourselves, who we are, and what we’ve accomplished. I think there’s nothing wrong in constantly pushing ourselves to do better; I do think it’s a part of our personality to be constantly craving achievement and being busy. But what we have to realize is at some point, what matters is that we focus on being happy with what we have, and focus on our loved ones. At the end of the day if you’re insanely successful but haven’t focused on taking care of yourself and your family/loved ones, it’s not going to be worth it since you’ll be alone and/or burned out. I think that we absolutely have to step back and take a deep breath and learn to just simply be happy with what we’ve achieved. Nothing wrong with this drive, but we can’t be totally consumed by it since that’s unhealthy.

  • http://lifeschocolates.blogspot.com/ Sam

    Jenny-this is such a thoughtful and honest post. I think a lot of people see achievers like you and are either jealous or spiteful. They don’t realize that the same drive that motivates you to accomplish can also be a burden. You have accomplished so much in your life so far, and you should be very proud of yourself. But, I think the key was when you said that achievers don’t always take the time to recognize their achievements. What’s the point of working so hard if you’re not going to enjoy the rewards?

    This well-known quote from Ferris Bueller seems very applicable here. “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you might miss it.” Don’t stop pushing yourself to accomplish your goals, but at the same time, make sure you stop and look around every once in a while.

  • http://lifeschocolates.blogspot.com Sam

    Jenny-this is such a thoughtful and honest post. I think a lot of people see achievers like you and are either jealous or spiteful. They don’t realize that the same drive that motivates you to accomplish can also be a burden. You have accomplished so much in your life so far, and you should be very proud of yourself. But, I think the key was when you said that achievers don’t always take the time to recognize their achievements. What’s the point of working so hard if you’re not going to enjoy the rewards?

    This well-known quote from Ferris Bueller seems very applicable here. “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you might miss it.” Don’t stop pushing yourself to accomplish your goals, but at the same time, make sure you stop and look around every once in a while.

  • bhline

    Loved the article, very clean and thoughtful writing on your part. I’ll add one more piece – the worst thing about being motivated to succeed beyond expectations is working with those that could care less.

  • bhline

    Loved the article, very clean and thoughtful writing on your part. I’ll add one more piece – the worst thing about being motivated to succeed beyond expectations is working with those that could care less.

  • http://www.liveyourideallife.blogspot.com/ Andrea

    Jenny, your transparency is beautiful. I know you have struggled with this for a while and I commend you for admitting your exhaustion, as you so eliquently put it.

  • http://www.liveyourideallife.blogspot.com Andrea

    Jenny, your transparency is beautiful. I know you have struggled with this for a while and I commend you for admitting your exhaustion, as you so eliquently put it.

  • http://www.lifeaftercollege.org/ Jenny

    I am blown away by all of your comments – thank you so much for the thoughtful, inspirational take on this topic. I was in a rough spot when I wrote this post, but as I’ve gone through the day reflecting on what each of you wrote, I’m left feeling incredibly uplifted.

    For starters, it helped me realize I am not alone in feeling conflicted! Second, it really made me appreciate that what we all have is a gift. I am so proud to write this blog, mostly because it allows me to meet and interact with motivated, smart, AMAZING people like all of you.

    Grace – I love what you said about recharging by focusing on friends and family (and going offline). On a similar note, Akhila – I think it’s so true that without friends and family life just does not have as much meaning, and that we can all step back to appreciate where we are more often. I, for one, think you are an inspiration and destined for greatness – I guess the message here is to just remember to enjoy it along the way!

    Sam – you are so right that working so hard is pointless if we don’t take time to enjoy the rewards! And Bhline – AMEN. I would so much rather be super motivated and associate with others like that than with those who couldn’t care less.

    The thought that lingers for me now is one of gratitude. Being motivated by achievement is a great thing – it just means we’ll have to remember to celebrate our successes, focus on balance in our lives and keep perspective on everything we have to be thankful for.

  • http://www.lifeaftercollege.org Jenny

    I am blown away by all of your comments – thank you so much for the thoughtful, inspirational take on this topic. I was in a rough spot when I wrote this post, but as I’ve gone through the day reflecting on what each of you wrote, I’m left feeling incredibly uplifted.

    For starters, it helped me realize I am not alone in feeling conflicted! Second, it really made me appreciate that what we all have is a gift. I am so proud to write this blog, mostly because it allows me to meet and interact with motivated, smart, AMAZING people like all of you.

    Grace – I love what you said about recharging by focusing on friends and family (and going offline). On a similar note, Akhila – I think it’s so true that without friends and family life just does not have as much meaning, and that we can all step back to appreciate where we are more often. I, for one, think you are an inspiration and destined for greatness – I guess the message here is to just remember to enjoy it along the way!

    Sam – you are so right that working so hard is pointless if we don’t take time to enjoy the rewards! And Bhline – AMEN. I would so much rather be super motivated and associate with others like that than with those who couldn’t care less.

    The thought that lingers for me now is one of gratitude. Being motivated by achievement is a great thing – it just means we’ll have to remember to celebrate our successes, focus on balance in our lives and keep perspective on everything we have to be thankful for.

  • http://www.silvanaavinami.com/ Silvana Avinami

    Jenny – I’m a bit embarrassed about referencing my blog on yours for the 2nd time in only 3 comments. So at the risk of being labeled a self-promoter (blip, blip), I must let you know of a story I wrote about a person who’s close to your age and is also an over-achiever…In case you don’t get a chance to read her story (http://silvanaavinami.com/?p=1032) here’s a brief summary about her career so far – She’s close to finishing a medical degree (self-funded – without financial aide), she tutors other medical students, she’s politically involved in school, she’s already co-authored a paper with one of the world’s top neurosurgeons, she’s one of the world’s youngest Bikram yoga teachers, she teaches yoga (and is so good that she gets asked to run posture clinics)..oh and she also has a beautiful voice (which she uses to chant in yoga class). Phew! Like you, when I spoke to her about her career, she’s looking for balance in her life…My take is it’s much easier to drop things than to take them on – You have the option to drop what’s not working. Whereas those who have not achieved, well, although I’m certain that they could, don’t have the option at the snap of their fingers… like you 2 do…So in my mind over-achieving is a much better place to be than under-achieving…Mind you, that could be because I’m also profiled as an achiever…

    • http://www.lifeaftercollege.org/ Jenny

      Silvana – don’t apologize! I absolutely love your blog and have bookmarked every single one of the posts you’ve sent. The last one about the woman studying to become a doctor was so inspiring. I love where she talked about how she became a yoga instructor; I’ve always had secret dreams of getting certified in Greece or somewhere exotic (of course India would work too :D)

      And GREAT point about having the luxury to choose what to STOP doing, rather than try to muster the strength or motivation to START. A really fantastic perspective on this topic.

      Keep those links coming! :D

  • http://www.silvanaavinami.com Silvana Avinami

    Jenny – I’m a bit embarrassed about referencing my blog on yours for the 2nd time in only 3 comments. So at the risk of being labeled a self-promoter (blip, blip), I must let you know of a story I wrote about a person who’s close to your age and is also an over-achiever…In case you don’t get a chance to read her story (http://silvanaavinami.com/?p=1032) here’s a brief summary about her career so far – She’s close to finishing a medical degree (self-funded – without financial aide), she tutors other medical students, she’s politically involved in school, she’s already co-authored a paper with one of the world’s top neurosurgeons, she’s one of the world’s youngest Bikram yoga teachers, she teaches yoga (and is so good that she gets asked to run posture clinics)..oh and she also has a beautiful voice (which she uses to chant in yoga class). Phew! Like you, when I spoke to her about her career, she’s looking for balance in her life…My take is it’s much easier to drop things than to take them on – You have the option to drop what’s not working. Whereas those who have not achieved, well, although I’m certain that they could, don’t have the option at the snap of their fingers… like you 2 do…So in my mind over-achieving is a much better place to be than under-achieving…Mind you, that could be because I’m also profiled as an achiever…

    • http://www.lifeaftercollege.org Jenny

      Silvana – don’t apologize! I absolutely love your blog and have bookmarked every single one of the posts you’ve sent. The last one about the woman studying to become a doctor was so inspiring. I love where she talked about how she became a yoga instructor; I’ve always had secret dreams of getting certified in Greece or somewhere exotic (of course India would work too :D)

      And GREAT point about having the luxury to choose what to STOP doing, rather than try to muster the strength or motivation to START. A really fantastic perspective on this topic.

      Keep those links coming! :D

  • http://www.intersectedblog.com/ Jamie

    Wow, Jenny – I love posts like this where you really tell us about who you are.

    I think many of us can relate to this. I know I can.

    And by writing like this, you get closer to some peacefulness about it. Don’t you think?

    Thanks for sharing!

  • http://www.intersectedblog.com Jamie

    Wow, Jenny – I love posts like this where you really tell us about who you are.

    I think many of us can relate to this. I know I can.

    And by writing like this, you get closer to some peacefulness about it. Don’t you think?

    Thanks for sharing!

  • http://www.mineyourresources.com CathD

    I enjoyed, and identified with this post, Jenny – I think there are alot of us “achievers” in this generation. And even though we see the shadow side of it, it’s not something we want to let go of, because it brings so many great experiences into our lives.

    For me, I’ve found it useful to shift my perspective by imagining what sort of old person I’ll be, if I continue being this way. Some days, when I have the balance right, I’ll think “yeah – a really cool old person with lots of great memories and stories!” and other times I’ll know that I have the balance wrong when I find myself answering, “possibly lonely and scared, because I focused more on doing than being.” It’s amazing the wisdom you can get from the old self that you could be one day – you don’t have to wait until you’re old to get the lessons.

    Great post,
    Cath

    • http://www.lifeaftercollege.org Jenny

      Thanks for the comment, Cath! Yes – I also think it is very characteristic of our generation. Thinking of my “future self” has always been a helpful exercise for me too. I think, what advice would I give myself if I were 30 or 40 right now, looking at my life?

      Earlier today someone I work with said the following: “It’s about a shift in how your programmed, and realizing that other things in your life (kids, marriage, balance, etc) are achievements too.” I thought that was really helpful – basically broadening what we define as achievement in the first place.

  • http://www.mineyourresources.com/ CathD

    I enjoyed, and identified with this post, Jenny – I think there are alot of us “achievers” in this generation. And even though we see the shadow side of it, it’s not something we want to let go of, because it brings so many great experiences into our lives.

    For me, I’ve found it useful to shift my perspective by imagining what sort of old person I’ll be, if I continue being this way. Some days, when I have the balance right, I’ll think “yeah – a really cool old person with lots of great memories and stories!” and other times I’ll know that I have the balance wrong when I find myself answering, “possibly lonely and scared, because I focused more on doing than being.” It’s amazing the wisdom you can get from the old self that you could be one day – you don’t have to wait until you’re old to get the lessons.

    Great post,
    Cath

    • http://www.lifeaftercollege.org/ Jenny

      Thanks for the comment, Cath! Yes – I also think it is very characteristic of our generation. Thinking of my “future self” has always been a helpful exercise for me too. I think, what advice would I give myself if I were 30 or 40 right now, looking at my life?

      Earlier today someone I work with said the following: “It’s about a shift in how your programmed, and realizing that other things in your life (kids, marriage, balance, etc) are achievements too.” I thought that was really helpful – basically broadening what we define as achievement in the first place.

  • http://topolk.blogspot.com/ TOPolk

    Interesting post Jenny. As a “former overachiever,” I know where you’re coming from. It does start to wear you down a bit, always going from one project to the next, hustling nonstop. You’re right in that it can become a burden more times than it should reasonably be.
    Realizing this, I stepped off that fast track. Let me be one of the first to say that it was extremely nice to stop and “smell the flowers,” but it was almost too nice. I wound up spending about a year longer than I needed to at a job that was getting me nowhere because it was “easy.” At the time I enjoyed the lack of a challenge and the ease a “routine life.” Now I’m wanting to get back to the grind and it’s way harder than I want it to be. Now sure, some of that trouble is because of the economy, but I think the rest is because of me letting a little bit of that fire I had die down some.

    Even so, I’m not upset at myself for pulling back a little. It’s all about finding a balance that makes you happy.

    • http://www.lifeaftercollege.org/ Jenny

      Thanks for the comment TO – I’ve been thinking about you and your job search lately. I really admire the time you are taking to “stop and smell the flowers,” even though I’m sure it has been a roller coaster. Was there a specific event that led you to change direction or just an overall feeling? It sounds like the job wasn’t fulfilling; I’m always interested to hear how and when different people actually make a big shift or change in their lives (knowing there isn’t one right way and that it’s different for everyone).

      My dad read this post and sent me a long email about selling my house to travel the world. Not sure I’m ready for that yet, but it certainly got me thinking!

  • http://topolk.blogspot.com TOPolk

    Interesting post Jenny. As a “former overachiever,” I know where you’re coming from. It does start to wear you down a bit, always going from one project to the next, hustling nonstop. You’re right in that it can become a burden more times than it should reasonably be.
    Realizing this, I stepped off that fast track. Let me be one of the first to say that it was extremely nice to stop and “smell the flowers,” but it was almost too nice. I wound up spending about a year longer than I needed to at a job that was getting me nowhere because it was “easy.” At the time I enjoyed the lack of a challenge and the ease a “routine life.” Now I’m wanting to get back to the grind and it’s way harder than I want it to be. Now sure, some of that trouble is because of the economy, but I think the rest is because of me letting a little bit of that fire I had die down some.

    Even so, I’m not upset at myself for pulling back a little. It’s all about finding a balance that makes you happy.

    • http://www.lifeaftercollege.org Jenny

      Thanks for the comment TO – I’ve been thinking about you and your job search lately. I really admire the time you are taking to “stop and smell the flowers,” even though I’m sure it has been a roller coaster. Was there a specific event that led you to change direction or just an overall feeling? It sounds like the job wasn’t fulfilling; I’m always interested to hear how and when different people actually make a big shift or change in their lives (knowing there isn’t one right way and that it’s different for everyone).

      My dad read this post and sent me a long email about selling my house to travel the world. Not sure I’m ready for that yet, but it certainly got me thinking!

  • http://www.bensmithee.com/ Ben Smithee

    Hey Jenny,

    Knew I would get around to commenting, meant to yesterday but got sidetracked!

    First, what a great and relevant post! Really hits home with the “life after..” theme as well. Many young people leave college ready to conquer the world ahead and are quickly hit with the reality outside of the academic bubble. Going the startup route, I personally am struck with these types of double-edged situations frequently.

    Wanting to take on as many new things and developments as possible often leaves me constantly pushing on and sometimes I have to just take a step back and appreciate the path that has been traveled so far.

    Like we talked about on our call last week, it’s so easy to try and take on the world all at once and lost track of the step-wise process that it takes to be successful in the long-run.

    In the end, I think the blessings way out-weigh the downfalls and we are better off for having the motivation and stamina to keep moving forward!

    Great Post!

    By the way – to the readers, I had the chance to speak with Jenny last week and go through a coaching session – Jenny is fabulous and if you are looking at finding a coach or looking into coaching yourself I would definitely give her a shout!

    -Ben

    • http://www.lifeaftercollege.org/ Jenny

      Ben – thank you so much for the great comment! Even from our conversations I can tell you are someone who is super motivated by achievement AND has a fantastic positive outlook on life. Incredible, actually. You strike a great balance between pursuing your goals, focusing on yourself AND giving back to others – and are truly a great example for all the people you work with (myself included!).

      I definitely agree that we are better off for having the motivation and stamina that we do; for me the luxury of choice is in how I want to channel it (which is what I like to call a champagne problem :D).

      And thanks for the coaching plug! That really means a lot to me.

  • http://www.bensmithee.com Ben Smithee

    Hey Jenny,

    Knew I would get around to commenting, meant to yesterday but got sidetracked!

    First, what a great and relevant post! Really hits home with the “life after..” theme as well. Many young people leave college ready to conquer the world ahead and are quickly hit with the reality outside of the academic bubble. Going the startup route, I personally am struck with these types of double-edged situations frequently.

    Wanting to take on as many new things and developments as possible often leaves me constantly pushing on and sometimes I have to just take a step back and appreciate the path that has been traveled so far.

    Like we talked about on our call last week, it’s so easy to try and take on the world all at once and lost track of the step-wise process that it takes to be successful in the long-run.

    In the end, I think the blessings way out-weigh the downfalls and we are better off for having the motivation and stamina to keep moving forward!

    Great Post!

    By the way – to the readers, I had the chance to speak with Jenny last week and go through a coaching session – Jenny is fabulous and if you are looking at finding a coach or looking into coaching yourself I would definitely give her a shout!

    -Ben

    • http://www.lifeaftercollege.org Jenny

      Ben – thank you so much for the great comment! Even from our conversations I can tell you are someone who is super motivated by achievement AND has a fantastic positive outlook on life. Incredible, actually. You strike a great balance between pursuing your goals, focusing on yourself AND giving back to others – and are truly a great example for all the people you work with (myself included!).

      I definitely agree that we are better off for having the motivation and stamina that we do; for me the luxury of choice is in how I want to channel it (which is what I like to call a champagne problem :D).

      And thanks for the coaching plug! That really means a lot to me.

  • http://www.joshallan.com/ Josh Allan Dykstra

    Hi Jenny!

    Found your blog today through BrazenCareerist — a friend forwarded this post to me due to my intense love of StrengthsFinder! What are your other Top 4 besides Achiever, if you don’t mind me asking??

    In any case, I am very much looking forward to reading more of your posts. Pleasure to make your acquaintance!

    • http://www.lifeaftercollege.org/ Jenny

      Thanks Josh! Happy that you found this post and my blog :D. Cool that you’ve taken SF too – I thought about sharing my other four strengths in the post but then I thought TMI. Well, here I go anyway! In order: Relator, Strategic, Learner, Achiever, Activator.

      I’m also an ENFJ (The Teacher) and my top 5 strengths on VIA Signature Strengths are Hope, optimism and future-mindedness; Creativity, ingenuity and originality; Perspective (wisdom); Judgment, critical thinking and open-mindedness; and Love of learning.

      Can you tell I’m addicted to these things?! Shoot me an email with yours – now I’m curious!

  • http://www.joshallan.com Josh Allan Dykstra

    Hi Jenny!

    Found your blog today through BrazenCareerist — a friend forwarded this post to me due to my intense love of StrengthsFinder! What are your other Top 4 besides Achiever, if you don’t mind me asking??

    In any case, I am very much looking forward to reading more of your posts. Pleasure to make your acquaintance!

    • http://www.lifeaftercollege.org Jenny

      Thanks Josh! Happy that you found this post and my blog :D. Cool that you’ve taken SF too – I thought about sharing my other four strengths in the post but then I thought TMI. Well, here I go anyway! In order: Relator, Strategic, Learner, Achiever, Activator.

      I’m also an ENFJ (The Teacher) and my top 5 strengths on VIA Signature Strengths are Hope, optimism and future-mindedness; Creativity, ingenuity and originality; Perspective (wisdom); Judgment, critical thinking and open-mindedness; and Love of learning.

      Can you tell I’m addicted to these things?! Shoot me an email with yours – now I’m curious!

  • Rochelle

    Wow, I just happened upon your blog- and I’m 32 and feel like I am at a quaertlife crisis myself.. for the last 5 years! You couldn’t have been more open and transparent about where you are at, and it struck a nerve. It’s nice to know there are others out there with the same anxieties, and the due diligence to keep it going. Amazing.. love the blog!

  • Rochelle

    Wow, I just happened upon your blog- and I’m 32 and feel like I am at a quaertlife crisis myself.. for the last 5 years! You couldn’t have been more open and transparent about where you are at, and it struck a nerve. It’s nice to know there are others out there with the same anxieties, and the due diligence to keep it going. Amazing.. love the blog!

  • http://leadingassociates.net/ Trina

    Hey Jenny! I always enjoy your posts, and this one definitely delivered. I share your feelings, and one of my main goals for my twenties is to find happiness. Great post!!

  • http://leadingassociates.net Trina

    Hey Jenny! I always enjoy your posts, and this one definitely delivered. I share your feelings, and one of my main goals for my twenties is to find happiness. Great post!!

  • http://www.lifeaftercollege.org/ Jenny

    Rochelle and Trina – thank you so much for the comments. I love that we can all come together on issues like this and share in the ups and downs. I hope you have a fantastic week, and may we all cut ourselves some slack this week!

  • http://www.lifeaftercollege.org Jenny

    Rochelle and Trina – thank you so much for the comments. I love that we can all come together on issues like this and share in the ups and downs. I hope you have a fantastic week, and may we all cut ourselves some slack this week!

  • http://www.snippetsofeverything.com/ ames

    You can enjoy, by not doing. And you can achieve, by not doing to. Achievement with so much doing is too exhausting! It all depends on your intention. To do, for achievement, and make yourself finish something. I think we all need to “not finish” things sometimes. Learning to let go… of achievement for the sake of it. Achievement has to mean something otherwise you may as well not start.

    I was a constant achiever, but in the last few years I’ve learnt to slow down. I still achieve a lot but I enjoy it so much more because I can be more present in what I am doing each day. It’s much more satisfying, and meaningful to me, because I have time to evaluate, and question – not be stuck in fast forward.

  • http://www.snippetsofeverything.com ames

    You can enjoy, by not doing. And you can achieve, by not doing to. Achievement with so much doing is too exhausting! It all depends on your intention. To do, for achievement, and make yourself finish something. I think we all need to “not finish” things sometimes. Learning to let go… of achievement for the sake of it. Achievement has to mean something otherwise you may as well not start.

    I was a constant achiever, but in the last few years I’ve learnt to slow down. I still achieve a lot but I enjoy it so much more because I can be more present in what I am doing each day. It’s much more satisfying, and meaningful to me, because I have time to evaluate, and question – not be stuck in fast forward.

  • http://www.tallbrunette.wordpress.com/ Tall Brunette

    Hey Jenny!
    I found your blog through 20sb. I’m glad I did.
    I’m in the situation where I’m ahead of all of my friends in just about everything. I’m the first one to finish school. I’m the first one with a real (good) job. I’m the first one to be financially independent.

    This confuses a lot of people because of the following; I barely graduated high school. I was near the bottom of my class, I did a lot of drugs, and I was pretty much passed over on a regular basis. But when I graduated high school, its like I kicked into high gear, and started using my brain. My personality completely changed, and I blazed through college- testing into the most advanced classes, getting straight A’s, and graduating at the top of my class- and for the cherry on top, being accepted to the Harvard Kennedy School of Government for my MBA.

    Now that I am here, in a high position, being very young in a very powerful position at work- I find myself being the mother to my friends. Friends who graduated from high school and went nowhere. I provide the place for them to stay when it gets rough, I provide them with what they need when they really need it.

    And now its backfiring on me. If I help them, apparently I’m rubbing it in their face that I’m more successful than they are. And if I don’t help them, then I’m just selfish and I can’t spare a moment of my precious time for my friends…

    As a life coach, what would you do? And have you been in this situation?

    Also, a good read is “Super Girls,” but Liz Funk. Its about girls like us- and the inevitable burn out to follow.

    I love your blog!

    -TB

  • http://www.tallbrunette.wordpress.com Tall Brunette

    Hey Jenny!
    I found your blog through 20sb. I’m glad I did.
    I’m in the situation where I’m ahead of all of my friends in just about everything. I’m the first one to finish school. I’m the first one with a real (good) job. I’m the first one to be financially independent.

    This confuses a lot of people because of the following; I barely graduated high school. I was near the bottom of my class, I did a lot of drugs, and I was pretty much passed over on a regular basis. But when I graduated high school, its like I kicked into high gear, and started using my brain. My personality completely changed, and I blazed through college- testing into the most advanced classes, getting straight A’s, and graduating at the top of my class- and for the cherry on top, being accepted to the Harvard Kennedy School of Government for my MBA.

    Now that I am here, in a high position, being very young in a very powerful position at work- I find myself being the mother to my friends. Friends who graduated from high school and went nowhere. I provide the place for them to stay when it gets rough, I provide them with what they need when they really need it.

    And now its backfiring on me. If I help them, apparently I’m rubbing it in their face that I’m more successful than they are. And if I don’t help them, then I’m just selfish and I can’t spare a moment of my precious time for my friends…

    As a life coach, what would you do? And have you been in this situation?

    Also, a good read is “Super Girls,” but Liz Funk. Its about girls like us- and the inevitable burn out to follow.

    I love your blog!

    -TB

  • http://www.lifeaftercollege.org/ Jenny

    TB – Thanks for your comment, and huge congrats to you for all of the success you’ve achieved! Especially after what sounds like a rocky high school experience. I think it is amazing that you have been able to turn things around for yourself in such a monumental way, and it sounds like you are doing the best you can to bring your friends along with you.

    I think success can test a friendship more than struggles can – if your friends can truly be happy for you and share your joy, even if they find themselves jealous at times, those are true friends. Those that make you feel bad about how far you’ve come can be toxic – I think that’s where you have to make some tough decisions about the friendships you want to maintain moving forward. I have also found that as my values have become more clear, it’s caused some gulfs in old friendships where I find it hard to maintain a relationship with someone who’s values conflict with mine.

    I would be happy to do a coaching session sometime (for free) on this – it sounds like a big issue for you right now, even amidst all of the other wonderful things you’ve got going on.

    HUGE congrats on getting into the Harvard MBA program, and I look forward to checking out the “Super Girls” book!

  • http://www.lifeaftercollege.org Jenny

    TB – Thanks for your comment, and huge congrats to you for all of the success you’ve achieved! Especially after what sounds like a rocky high school experience. I think it is amazing that you have been able to turn things around for yourself in such a monumental way, and it sounds like you are doing the best you can to bring your friends along with you.

    I think success can test a friendship more than struggles can – if your friends can truly be happy for you and share your joy, even if they find themselves jealous at times, those are true friends. Those that make you feel bad about how far you’ve come can be toxic – I think that’s where you have to make some tough decisions about the friendships you want to maintain moving forward. I have also found that as my values have become more clear, it’s caused some gulfs in old friendships where I find it hard to maintain a relationship with someone who’s values conflict with mine.

    I would be happy to do a coaching session sometime (for free) on this – it sounds like a big issue for you right now, even amidst all of the other wonderful things you’ve got going on.

    HUGE congrats on getting into the Harvard MBA program, and I look forward to checking out the “Super Girls” book!

  • http://tallbrunette.wordpress.com/ Tall Brunette

    I would actually prefer to hire you for your help. :)

    Keep blogging, I love your stuff! AND- congrats to you on all your achievement. You have been able to keep going, whereas I feel I’ve hit a burn out point.
    But you acknowledge your faults and use them to your advantage, and THAT is commendable!

    Thanks for your advice and company!

    Ciao!
    -TB

  • http://tallbrunette.wordpress.com Tall Brunette

    I would actually prefer to hire you for your help. :)

    Keep blogging, I love your stuff! AND- congrats to you on all your achievement. You have been able to keep going, whereas I feel I’ve hit a burn out point.
    But you acknowledge your faults and use them to your advantage, and THAT is commendable!

    Thanks for your advice and company!

    Ciao!
    -TB

  • Pingback: Interview: Life Coach and blogger Jenny Blake | Brand-Yourself.com Blog()

  • http://comfortablyuncomfortable.wordpress.com Wee C

    Thanks for sending me to this post, Jenny. I can identify with EVERY.SINGLE.THING. here. I especially love your line: In many ways I feel defined by what I do, not who I am. I’ve been saying that about myself for years. Plus, I always say that I’m a Praise Junkie, so overachieving is pretty good fuel for that :)

    The challenge for me is to fully embrace the second paragraph of the definition of an achiever and, while not letting what’s in the first paragraph suffocate that out of me. The behaviours outlined in the definition are naturally at odds. You can’t be fully innovative when you’re burning the candle at both ends, nor can you see what new ventures may be ahead of you when the immediate pile of work is blocking your view. And, just because we have the stamina doesn’t mean we should exploit it at all times. Relaxing doesn’t make us lazy (albeit, I bet that’s how many of us feel). Rather, relaxing allows us to open our minds to the next great project or challenge.

    In 2011, I’m going to be focusing on living the life of a sprinter – going hard and fast when I’m in the middle of the race, but between races, resting and restoring my mind and my body.

    Thanks for this post, Jenny. It’s nice to know that the journey to living a fulfilled life is a shared one.

    • http://www.lifeaftercollege.org jennyblake

      Thanks for your great comment, Colette! It’s so true what you said – “just
      because we have the stamina doesn’t mean we should exploit it at all times.”
      Knowing when to rest and relax is so important. I love that you are going to
      focus on the sprinter mentality in 2011 – have you read “The Power of Full
      Engagement”? Great book on that very topic.

      Happy Holidays!

  • Emily

    Awesome post, Jenny! Strengthsfinder ROCKS.MY.WORLD. I am so surprised that achiever is not my top 5 strengths but I do realize you have 10 strengths if you go deeper into the assessment.

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