What is Achievement Addiction? How Do You Know If You Have It?
One of the most powerful motives that humans can possess is the drive to achieve. Typically, we consider high achievement to be positive. We encourage ourselves, and our children, to be high achievers. But can we become too achievement-oriented, and cross over into achievement-addiction (what is sometimes called “workaholism”)?
Ronald E. Riggio, Ph.D., is the Henry R. Kravis Professor of Leadership and Organizational Psychology and former Director of the Kravis Leadership Institute at Claremont McKenna College. Professor Riggio is the author of over 100 books, book chapters, and research articles in the areas of leadership, assessment centers, organizational psychology, and social psychology.
Editor: Nadeem Noor
Workaholism is when a person’s drive to achieve becomes so great that other areas — family, love life, health, and leisure — are neglected in the effort to achieve more and more. As you might imagine, many achievement-addicted persons are financially successful, but money, for the most part, is a by-product of the desire to succeed and win. It is important to note that achievement-addiction is connected to the Type A behavior pattern, the hard-driving, competitive, and coronary-prone personality.
How can we tell if we are achievement-addicted? Here is a simple test:
1. Do you find yourself always trying to “keep score” of accomplishments and “wins”?
2. Do you often have a sense of scarcity of time — not enough time in the day, or days in the week to get things done?
3. Do you regularly use to-do lists and time-saving devices?
4. Do you take quick meals in order to get back to work?
5. Do you need little sleep and wake up ready to go?
6. Do you have difficulty enjoying idle time?
7. Can you work just about anywhere (true workaholics are known to take work into the bathroom)?
8. Do you combine work and leisure, or take work with you on vacation?
9. Do you have intense energy?
10. Do you have a strong desire to excel?
11. Do you have a dread of retirement?
12. Do you have long workdays, or continue working at home?
13. Are you acutely aware of what your own work can accomplish?
14. Are you characterized by intense energy?
If you answered “yes” to ten or more of these questions, odds are that you are achievement-addicted.
What to Do About It?
Schedule some “time off” and work to enjoy your leisure time.
Turn that energy toward other areas of your life, like your family, friends, and hobbies. Make sure that you are achieving a work-life balance. Appreciate the progress you are making, but take time to reward yourself with some downtime.