Clarissa's Blog

Categories of Underachievement


Reader DWeird made an important comment about the weirdness of the expression “going to the gym” that seems to imply that the main difficulty is to set out in the direction of the gym. The comment points towards an important distinction among different groups of underachievers.

1. The first group is called “Failure to Launch” and it consists of people who have difficulty beginning to work on a task. They delay and find a million explanations why they can’t start already and need more time to prepare. Once they actually start, they are extremely effective and do everything faster than anybody else. But dawdling before the start eats up a lot of their energy. These are the anxious people, the OCD people.

2. The second group is “Failure to Execute.” These folks start easily and often. But then they run out of steam. They can never follow through and get bogged down in details. They lose interest fast even if they were very enthusiastic at first. They run into a mountain of unsurmountable obstacles and finally just give up. And start from the beginning. These are folks with low self-esteem and feelings of guilt that eat up their psychological energy. They are also fearful of being as successful as they know they can be. The loss of interest is an act of self-sabotage aimed at avoiding success. The reason they avoid success is because there are people in their lives who will be threatened by their success.

3. The third group is “Failure to Disengage.” These are the people who don’t know when to stop. They’ll fuss over an article for years and never submit. They’ll miss the deadline for a report because they are still putting on the finishing touches. They’ll kill their own pitch because they’ll keep selling long past the time they should have shut up. These are the folks who can’t end a hopeless relationship and keep going to the same extremely problematic partner they’ve broken up with a hundred times already. These are people with control issues. They can’t relinquish control over what they perceive as their. As the previous two groups, this is also away of dealing with anxiety.

Of course,you don’t have to be strictly one group or the other. Some people are two and even all three. This depends on the degree of anxiety one has.

I’m notoriously group one. Once I start, I’m an animal. I execute, carry through, and complete extremely well. But I spend a lot more time delaying the start than actually doing it. So as the always insightful DWeird pointed out, going to the gym is a challenge for me precisely because getting myself physically into the building that houses the gym is an adventure.