Seven Subtle Differences Between A Workaholic And A High Performer. Which One Are You?

While working hard can win you accolades and promotions, it can also hurt your health and personal life. So is your busyness about actual achievement or unhealthy compulsion? Ask yourself these seven questions to find out.

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High performance and workaholism may look the same on the outside, but, deep inside, they are two distinct ways of working

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"They both look like hard work. The BIG DIFFERENCE is how the individual feels on the inside about who they are in relationships to their work. A high performer works hard in healthy sustainable ways and feels happy and inspired. A workaholic works hard in unhealthy unsustainable ways and feels unhappy and burned out," wrote Jullien Gordon, Founding Partner of New Higher, in his post High Performers vs Workaholics."

1. There's a difference between "doing business" vs. "being busy"

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A high performer's #1 goal is to do business. The only thing that matters to them are results. If they can't see a way to create value in the moment, they facilitate or strategize instead. They know that like the economy, business comes in waves, therefore, they get ready during the dips so they can capitalize during the upswings.

A workaholics' #1 goal is to be busy. Workaholics fill any space in time with busy work because they feel insecure doing nothing. The insecurity comes from not knowing their value. They believe that the busier they are, the more important they must be. As a result, they find a way to be busy even when it's not busy season instead of periodically hibernating throughout the days, weeks, months, quarters, and year for when the highs come.

2. While high performers know their self-value, workaholics constantly rely on others to determine their worth

"A high performer knows their self-worth and can thus work with a sense a freedom," Gordon says. They do periodic self-evaluations of their performance so that they can constantly improve. And, he says, "they create their own feedback loops rather than waiting on feedback from others."

A workaholic, on the other hand, relies on external validation from those around them: bosses, colleagues, and clients. They wait for external evaluations, such as mid-year or annual reviews, to understand how well they are doing, which causes them to work with a constant sense of fear.

3. While workaholics hustle for the unsustainable i.e. 110% all of the time, high performers give 100% at the very right time

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Gordon says a high performer knows when to "turn it up." They know when they're expected or required to give everything they have - and they save their energy for those occasions. "They don't buy into the illusion of 110%," he says. "They know that 110% is unsustainable. Instead they focus on increasing their capacity so that their 100% is better than the competition's 110%."

A workaholic on the other hand thinks "turn down for what?" So they hustle, grind, and go H.A.M. all of the time. They have difficulty prioritizing what's important, therefore, everything is important in their mind.

4. Also, while a high performer exactly knows what is enough, for a workaholic, on the other hand, it is never enough

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A high perform knows what is enough. Whether we win by 1 point or 50 points, it doesn't matter. A win is a win. High performers see more in the areas that matters, but they know what enough is in the areas that don't matter so much. This comes from having a clear definition of success.

"A workaholic, on the other hand, doesn't know what enough is. I'm not good enough. This isn't good enough. I don't have enough time. I don't have enough support. They are always focused on more and seeing to maximize everything because they don't really know what success means to them," Gordon explains.

5. One of most subtle difference is perhaps this: The quality of being proactive versus reactive

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"A high performer is proactive about their time and work. They design their day and anchor the most meaningful and important things in time first, and then they allow fires and other unplanned events to fill in the rest of their day. They don't allow distractions to deter their strategy," Gordon asserts.

A workaholic is reactive about their time and work. They allow other people to choose how their time gets spent working by reacting to emails, fires, unplanned events, and other distractions that arise throughout the day. If and when all of the minutia get address, they try to do what's most meaningful.

6. While high performers put self first so they can give first-class service, workaholics puts others before themselves

A high performer puts themselves first because they know that by doing so, it allows them to serve others at a higher level. At times it appears to be selfish, but it's actually selfless because they want to give first-class service to those they work with and for.

A workaholics puts others before themselves. This appears to be selfless, but it's not sustainable. When we constantly give more than we have and never take time to replenish our source, we end up depleted. This behaviors is also driven by the good intention of service, but desire to be needed and be the hero counters that intention.

7. Lastly, while high performers focus on their effort, workaholics can't differentiate between what they can or cannot control

"A high performer focuses on their effort—inputs and outputs. Only the individual knows if they gave the task at hand their best. They judge themselves against their best self as opposed to others," Gordon writes.

This is quite different from someone who focuses only on the outcome and their income. "Even when you think you do your best, the outcome that occurs and the income that is derived from it is not fully in our control. Their desire to compare leads them to judge themselves using common metrics of success which aren't always directly correlated to effort."

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