If you are part of the GamePlan A community, it’s very likely you are a bit like me. You want to grow. You have a love for learning. You want to unfold your potential and you’re looking for the key to success. You know that it takes effort to do so. You are setting high expectations towards yourself as well as the people you work with. You play to win and it comes naturally that you work hard and hustle your way towards success. No pain, no gain.

The feeling of progress is just unbelievably rewarding.

Can ambition be a bad thing?

Like anything, a growth mindset, dedication and hard work have a flipside, too. They put us in danger of blindly falling into a trap. One that stops us from reaching our full potential and true fulfilment.

Here’s what happens usually before you tap into the “work hard” trap: you’re ambitious and confident, so you set high goals which make you feel slightly uncomfortable. Working towards those goals is an enjoyable process.

At some point you realize the goal is still far away. To achieve it you’ll have to work a lot harder and show some resilience. Clack. You’re trapped.

I bet many of you will be able to relate to some of my own examples:

When I was at the height of my fitness, I lacked gratitude for the status quo. Every workout I pushed harder. With more self-appreciation and joy for the process I would have come further quicker.

Hands viewed from a smoky glass
Don't get caught in the trap.

When I took part-time parental leave, I became obsessed with optimizing my schedule to balance precious family time and my career. But I totally forgot to plan in some important me-time.

The GamePlan A team can be proud of how far we have come with our mission to inspire business athletes, but the reality is we tend to focus on the untapped potential and how we want to improve.

We often miss the chances to celebrate our progress adequately. What is the sense of success if you don’t celebrate it?

These are just a few examples of falling short by taking it too far. Everybody has their own stories. The good news is that we can get better at avoiding the trap by reading the signs.

Four early signs you’re falling into the trap

  • With your eyes on the goal, you forget to appreciate what you or your team have achieved. Nothing feels good enough.
  • You’re making compromises in important parts of your personal life. If you don’t know what your best friend is up to these days, you might be trapped.
  • You’ve become more self-critical and tense. You’re starting to vent your frustration on others… clack.
  • You’re sleeping badly because you work late and start early. Instead of recharging, your brain continues to look for solutions during the night. And when you wake up, the first thing you do is reach for your phone.

Young woman lying on side in bed operating smartphone | Key to success
Don't get to the point where the first thing you do in the morning is check your phone. ©Benjamin Torode/GettyImages

So how can we avoid or at least escape this trap?

Four practices for hustlers to unfold their full potential

1. Redefine success

Define what success looks like for you. Don’t look at the different areas of your life separately, rather consider them as one. When doing so, try to let go of how society defines success.

2. Identify, rethink and rewrite your “work hard” doctrines

We need to question the doctrine that nothing in life comes easy (and, hence, needs to be hard). Remember, you get what you think. “Nothing in life comes easy.” Really? Maybe we should rewrite it into “Success can be achieved playfully and with intuition, too”.

Let’s re-formulate “Nothing in life comes for free” to “Some of the greatest things in life are totally free.” Whatever your version of the truth is, write it down.

3. Practice gratitude

Also appreciate the small steps and achievements. Your past accomplishments count something, too. If you disagree, go back to tip 2.

4. Pause

When pressure kicks in, do the counter-intuitive and take a break. Don’t allow your inner hustler to scream “ATTACK” right away. Instead pause and check-in with yourself. Also plan for some playtime.

Make time for you time. ©Westend61/GettyImages

With this article I am committing to not put my fitness on the backseat anymore. I’ll start with noting down why fitness is truly important to my life.

How will you commit to avoiding the “hustle knee jerk reflex” trap? What is the first step you’ll take? Tell us in the comments and let the GamePlan A community help you to stay on track.

13 COMMENTS

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by Frank 02.05.2019
So glad to be part of this strong community. I would love to keep the conversation going and read about your commitments, identify more signs that indicate us we’re trapped, learn about your strategies to find the balance... let’s grow together. Looking forward to it. Frank
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Really liked Nr 1 . Often we forget that the goals we are setting define which path we are following. And to follow our own path we should separate our definition of success (and the goals we set according to it) from what the majority of people define it as. We often forget it during work but the point is to take time and reflect on it regularly. Thanks for sharing Frank!
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by Frank Sina Port 03.05.2019
Thanks, Sina. It definitely can take a bit of courage to set your own definition of success but it is the only way to really get to what fulfills you. I really think we can't put enough emphasis on the importance of looking at your goals holistically. We have only one life (not work, private, sports, etc.) so our goals for different areas of our life need to be in synch. Appreciate your feedback.
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by Nina Weihrauch 03.05.2019
Hi Frank,

thanks for sharing and I can totally relate to your words. I fell into the trap in the past and the signs you described are very important. I think that nearly every ambitious young gun will fall into the trap at some point in time, but the most important thing is to get out of it again and learn from it.
I escaped the trap by talking to people, exchanging thoughts and getting outside views on some things. Sometimes we're so caught up in our own thoughts that we aren't able to see the big picture.

My game changer was to consciously work on dialing down without losing drive, but finding a healthier balance. Sustainable growth comes from experience, reflection and turning learnings into actions.

Best,

Nina
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by Frank Nina Weihrauch 03.05.2019
Thanks, Nina. ...and you are doing great. Since you managed to dial down occasionally, you are a true role-model for efficient and meaningful growth and learning. Keep going.
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by Alex 03.05.2019
Great points here mate. Number 4 is something I'm speaking about a lot this year. Being sporty and a business athlete means knowing yourself and your drivers. Working hard doesn't mean never taking time to look at your relationships, mindset or health. Personally I've demonstrated I'm good at working off my own initiative as I tend to be optimistic and motivated. However, my absolute best comes when I work in elite teams with people who share my ambition but who also care about me. Realising you can't do it all - is vital.

I'll also put another take home on the twitter and LinkedIn.

All the best
ALEX AHOM
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by Frank Alex 03.05.2019
🙌 If you are too busy to reflect something goes dramatically wrong. Thanks for all the energy you share with the community, Alex.🙏🏼
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by Tyne Owen 05.05.2019
Love this!!
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by Frank Tyne Owen 06.05.2019

🙏🏼🙌
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by Susana 06.05.2019
Stop and Practice gratitude. Sometimes we run so fast that we do not even dare to look around us and stop in fear we might fall. Dare to stop, dare to see what is around you and you what you have been accomplishing day after day. All around you is full of life that strives at its own pace. Be grateful, every small step you do now will become one huge victory tomorrow.
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by Frank Susana 06.05.2019
Word. Thanks for sharing, Susana.
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by Audrey 09.05.2019
Hi Frank!

Thanks for the reminder to slow down and look around in the midst of the hustle!

Redefining success: so important. I personally don't do well with goals that are too rigid and too defined early on because it doesn't give me room to let my creative side take over in the midst of a challenge, when maybe my rational self needs to step aside and let the emotional, free-artist spirit take a try at the solution.
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by Frank Audrey 09.05.2019
Great self-awareness, Audrey. I'd be interested: does doing so take a lot of courage when (you assume) people expect something else from you (e.g. to play your rationalist/Project Manager role)? Or is it more kind of a learned reflex to reply in a certain way to a specific type of situation ("oh, this is that kind of situation so I should react as a rationalist now")?
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