Understanding Motivation: What Drives High Achievers?

“David Goggins is a real life example of a high achiever. He is documented as the only person to have completed US Army Ranger School, US Air Force Tactical Control Party Training, and US Navy Seal Training. Goggins not only completed these nearly impossibly difficult trainings, he also completed combat missions in each capacity. David holds a Guinness world record for completing 4,030 pullups in 17 hours. He has completed over 70 endurance races including the Infinitus 88k, considered one of the toughest, most brutal races in the world, which he also won.”  

High achievers are people who love to set and accomplish challenging goals. ‍They are driven by a need to improve themselves as well as to help others. They find meaning in looking towards the next, more challenging goals. What drives the high achiever is a question that researchers have tried to answer over the years.

Experts have identified certain factors that set the high achiever apart from other people. They include: 

Their motivations 

Motivation expert, David McClelland identified three factors that motivate people in life. They are a need for power, a need for affiliation, and a need for achievement. High achievers are driven by a need for achievement. They like setting goals and working to accomplish them. High achievers are able to overcome challenges because they are always motivated to try again.  

They have grit 

One major personality trait that high achievers possess is grit. Grit refers to sustained perseverance and passion when faced with long-term or challenging goals. Psychologist Angela Lee Duckworth grit is a predictor of a person’s likelihood to succeed.  Grit involves developing discipline, mental stamina and self-control to improve one’s skills and achieve goals even when faced with adversity. People who have grit are willing to do what it takes to succeed. 

Taking risks 

The average person tends to worry about the possibility of failure and how to avoid it when faced with a new goal. However, research shows that high achievers focus on accomplishing the goal rather than the chance that they might fail. High achievers focus more on taking calculated risks, stepping outside their comfort zones, and on continuous improvement. They are not swayed by failure because they don’t let it stop them. 

Their mindset  

High achievers believe that success is the result of hard work and willpower. When things don’t go their way or they fail to meet set goals, they don’t blame it on bad luck or misfortune. They believe that their success is their responsibility and so they keep working, even when faced with challenges or obstacles. Instead of giving up, they would rather try as many times as possible, until they achieve their desired results.  

A love for learning 

High achievers love to learn new things about themselves, their skills, and the ways by which they can apply those skills. They are not afraid to be beginners in a new task, project, or activity.  Although they are perfectionists, they don’t let failure or mistakes cripple them. They focus on learning and building their knowledge until they are experts.  When they make mistakes, they learn from them as well. 

In conclusion… 

The high achiever is not a superhuman, they are just people who keep going when everyone else stops. As David Goggins said, “when you think you are done and can go no further, you are only 40% done and can still push yourself.” It’s not too late to build the mental stamina and grit of a high achiever. It starts with persevering through the unpleasant daily tasks and soon enough, you will be smashing world records.

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