“What if we stopped celebrating being busy as a measurement of importance? What if instead we celebrated how much time we had spent listening, pondering, meditating, and enjoying time with the most important people in our lives?” – Greg McKeown, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less

We live in a society that worships the overachiever. Burning the candle at both ends and denying yourself pleasure until the work is done is seen as honorable. It seems celebrating “busy” as a sense of self importance has become the new norm.

Working hard and having a strong work ethic is definitely key to living a great life. But it’s also important to balance your life with a sense of play and freedom. If you don’t, you will likely experience burn out, fatigue, stress, damaged relationships, and more.

Achievement is good. Who doesn’t want to achieve their goals. The problem with overachieving is people often sacrifice their own health, happiness and relationships and the while chasing a goal that keeps getting farther and farther away.

The dangers of being an overachiever


Work smarter, not harder.

You may think that an overachiever would be every boss and manager’s dream employee. After all, if you’re someone who’s addicted to work, you’re generally the first to arrive, last to leave, and refuse to take vacations while taking on mountains of work and projects.

But workaholics and overachievers are often not seen as team players, don’t delegate, and can’t handle the workload efficiently. And, because these individuals refuse to take time off of work, they often become sick.

Overachievers and workaholics experience far more work-related stress, anger, anxiety and depression, which can result in physical symptoms like headaches, migraines, G.I. problems and insomnia.

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Overachieving and anxiety often go hand in hand.

Are you an overachiever?

Wondering if you are an overachiever or workaholic? Here are 10 signs you may be:

  1. You work over 50 hours each week.
  2. You feel the need to be constantly busy.
  3. You have trouble relaxing and/or having fun we’re not working.
  4. You are a perfectionist.
  5. Writing to-do lists is fun for you.
  6. Your loved ones complain about how much you work.
  7. You are often caught not listening or paying a tension to conversations because you’re focused on work.
  8. You’ve often been called a “control freak.”
  9. You’re neglecting other aspects of your life, like attending your kid’s sports events or family get-togethers.
  10. You become highly stressed when you’re forced to turn off your cell phone and other digital devices.

Workaholism is a real disease

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Workaholism and overachieving can have disastrous effects on your life.

Workaholism is an actual disease like alcoholism that tends to be passed down from parent to child. Overachievers use work as a means to cope with emotional discomfort and feelings of inadequacy. Because there is a real, intense need for work as a distraction, other areas of life tend to suffer. And the cycle goes on and on.

Workaholics and overachievers benefit greatly from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) where they learn coping strategies that allow them to feel better and work less. These approaches teach skills for how to manage negative thoughts and emotions that drive unhelpful behaviors like avoidance, self-medicating, overthinking, worrying, obsessing, and more.

Life is too short to spend it feeling like you need to be busy in order to feel important. If you’re struggling to manage your stress, find an awesome therapist you like and trust to help you separate the vital few from the trivial many.

James Killian, LPC is the Principal Therapist & Owner of Arcadian Counseling in New Haven, CT where they specialize in helping over-thinkers, high achievers, and perfectionists reduce stress, increase fulfillment and enhance performance so they can move From Surviving To Thriving.