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The 5 Bad Habits of High-Achieving Entrepreneurs What got you initial traction and success may be what leads you to chronic stress, overwhelm and burnout as your business grows. Watch out for these five warning signs.

By Rachel Godfrey Edited by Chelsea Brown

Key Takeaways

  • Five common harmful habits of high-achieving entrepreneurs and how to break them

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

You might be surprised at the high percentage of high-achieving entrepreneurs, whose unique combination of traits or habits that accelerate their success early on, later find these same traits eventually become what hold them back.

They're often the source of chronic stress, overwhelm, burnout and plateaued revenues.

So, while this combination of seemingly beneficial traits generally means you're intelligent, driven, ambitious, hard-working, have a high work ethic and a high tolerance for stress, it may also mean you're:

  • Often feeling overworked and undervalued

  • Constantly under pressure to deliver in tight deadlines

  • Regularly on the edge of burnout

  • Constantly stressed and overwhelmed

  • Surrounded by people who disappoint you and don't meet your expectations

  • Apprehensive about more responsibility because you're barely coping as is

So, while go-go-go may get you ahead in the beginning, there are dangerous consequences if you don't get your habits in check early on. Stay there too long, and it will bleed into your relationships, health and personal life.

Here are five common harmful habit addictions we've observed in high-achieving entrepreneurs:

Related: 18 Destructive Habits Holding You Back From Success

1. The human doing

This behavior presents when you only feel "worthy" or like "enough" when you're being productive, useful or valuable. If you're not busy (over)achieving, you feel lazy, worthless or like you're wasting time. You're addicted to being busy and incapable of switching off — ever. This can impair recovery, creativity, problem-solving and long-term resilience.

2. Completion addiction

You never give yourself permission to be fully present, in the moment, at peace or in harmony with life — until ALL to-do lists are complete, all unfinished business is finished, all problems are solved and all unanswered questions are answered. You can't stop thinking about a topic or project until you have closure, it's signed off, over and done!

You're desperate for the feeling of completion, which never comes, so you rush through your day, never taking time to stop, recover or be present. This is particularly problematic for long-term projects.

3. Over-attention to detail

Perfectionism is the antithesis of high performance. It's an impossible standard and often stems from being afraid to make a mistake or look like a fool.

You always look for what's wrong or not good enough, and you always find something. Nothing you do ever feels good enough, tasks take 10x longer than they need to, or you often don't even get started because you feel overwhelmed.

Related: Perfection Is a Trap, and It's Keeping You From Being Successful

4. Overthinking and overanalyzing

This habit is also driven by the fear of being judged or criticized, as well as the fear of failure. Now you have an endless list of "What ifs." You "need" certainty and predictability, which simply doesn't exist. You need to know what's going to happen, when and how — before it even happens!

This trait is often combined with control issues, where you need to control everything and everyone in order to feel safe and secure. Even if you're not doing it overtly — because you're afraid people might think you're controlling — you're trying to predict and control covertly. Either way, it's exhausting.

5. People pleasing

The final high-achieving trait we see often is when you're constantly saying "yes," but you wish you could say "no." You don't have clarity on your boundaries. Even if you did, you're constantly violating them and your standards to avoid upsetting people, as well as your fear of being judged or criticized again. You struggle to say "no" without massive guilt and without ruminating over previous experiences.

These bad habits lead high-achievers to obsess over the minutia. You constantly feel the need to prove yourself or justify your position. You regularly get stuck in your head, ruminating and worrying, trying to make everything perfect.

When you have a high tolerance for pain and stress — which you do because that's part of every business owner's DNA — you can achieve a lot in your career … BECAUSE of these traits. But they can only get you so far.

After a certain threshold, the workload, stress and overwhelm become too much, and you max out. What got you here won't get you there. It's time to be as successful personally as you are professionally.

You'll never break through your glass ceiling if you stay addicted to these habits and the old identity that drives them.

Related: 10 Bad Habits Entrepreneurs Must Give Up To Be Successful

How to break harmful high-achieving habits

We all have blind spots that prevent us from seeing the forest for the trees. And two big influences on how you view your world are:

1. Your relationship with yourself

Stop making self-worth conditional. You wouldn't accept your child based on passing an exam or tidying up their room, so why do we make our own self-worth conditional on looking a certain way, earning $X amount or achieving something big?

Most high-achievers react when they hear this and think, "If I do that, I'll lower my standards, become complacent or drop the ball," which is a false assumption.

The foundation of self-acceptance means you can chase the right things for the right reasons. You can still be ambitious, but this time, it's about results — not about feeling good enough or proving yourself.

2. Your relationship with the future

Life is uncertain! We never know what's going to happen next. But we humans have a built-in need for certainty — and there lies the problem.

We want to know what, when and how "it's" going to happen, which is futile and exhausting. Forward planning is important, but not overplanning. When people have poor relationships with uncertainty, they tend to have control issues, completion addiction and chronic worry.

So, stop trying to control the uncontrollable. Understand (and accept) that the answer to every question about the future is still, "I don't know."

By putting these two influential foundations in place, the five bad habits of high-achieving entrepreneurs naturally dissolve — by themselves!

You'll no longer be in a fight against yourself, and your natural strengths become enhanced. Your previously harmful habits have now created space for healthy, high-achieving habits to take their place.

Rachel Godfrey

Health & Performance Mentor

Strategic Health & Performance Consulting - Optimizing health & accelerating performance in experienced entrepreneurs, by rewiring their approach to running a high performing operation and upgrading their physical health from “getting by”… to exceptional.

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