| Kenneth W.
In 1990, when I
launched the Maximum Potential Project, I had been in private practice
as a psychologist for over 15 years in the San Francisco Bay Area suburb
of Lafayette, seeing adults, couples, families, and adolescents in
groups. Over that period, I estimated that probably 80% of the families
who came to see me mentioned their children's school performance as a
major concern. Many of these parents were tortured by seeing their
children fail to take hold and make use of their talent.
2. During the research and writing phase of your book did you reflect upon your own struggles with underachievement?
I certainly did. I
recognized early on that though I had achieved a number of
external markers of achievement, the challenges that underachievers
acutely face were ones with which I not only had to wrestle, but
likewise as did most other people I knew. Who doesn't from time to time
take the easy way out, cut losses, settle for less? Who isn't tempted by
shortcuts? Those who succeed keep these self-limiting choices at bay and
prevent them from becoming habitual by developing a structure of habits
that are just slightly different in terms of work orientation,
promptness of action, follow through, and persistence. Cumulatively,
these small differences make a huge difference.
In the creative
arts, people's efforts are so completely exposed that fears of ridicule
and failure are hugely magnified. Plus in the creative arts people are
striving to say something new in fresh ways. Brain surgeons people who
have to take risks with life and death matters do not try to be creative
every time out, and don't have an audience or critics watching
their every move while they are them. Those in the creative arts really
put themselves out there. It takes courage and it is by no means easy.
Plus success is difficult to attain and maintain.
Underachievement is a whole complex of self-limiting habits and thinking patterns that certainly can involve laziness. However, very ambitious, hugely energetic people can achieve far less than they otherwise would by setting conflicting goals and engaging in self-handicapping and other self-defeating behaviors. Everyone has some proportion of laziness. Underachievement is usually something more than just that.
5. Do you have plans to write a book about overachievement?
I doubt it, but
who knows? I don't much like the concept of overachievement. How can you
achieve more than you are able to? I think the term suggests that you
can achieve too much to make other people feel comfortable and you ought
to keep a lid on it. Women have suffered through that one for centuries.
6. Any tips for folks struggling to break out of the cycle of underachievement ?
1. You have to
make a definitive, unequivocal, no turning back decision to permanently
change your work orientation and your habits.