The idea of being challenged is scary to some people. Many would rather look the part than put in the work hard.
I am fortunate to work with so many people of varying skill level. By far, the group I enjoy working with the most are high performers. A high performer is defined as someone who strives for superior results through calculated effort. You have them in each class and over the years I have been able to recognize them fairly quickly. While some students associate failing as a negative, a high performer will see it as part of the process. They recognize the road towards their goal will be littered with failures. They are okay because it does not define who they are as a person. When they recognize their goal they are more focused on achieving the positive outcome versus the negative response.
The problem I see and what I have to work really hard at is helping separate the identity. Self doubt is insidious and it wrecks your confidence. When someone ties their identity to their performance they often times have self confidence issues. They are more worried about the outcome than the process because they judge themselves by the outcome. It’s all about the process and a high performer recognizes the difference. It is one thing to mentally plan on avoiding failure, but it is the wrong attitude. Instead, you want to focus on achieving a good outcome. A good outcome will have failures along the way so be ready for criticism.
The ostrich syndrome
This is another area as an instructor you have to be a higher level of understanding. Each person will respond to criticism differently. What I have seen is the overachiever will do anything to avoid criticism. While some see that as a good thing, all they are doing is avoiding failure. They practice only what they are good at because they do not want to face criticism that can question their self confidence. At some point you have to place yourself in those awkward positions that typically bring criticism to the table. The anxiety you feel is based on the future outcome and not the present performance.
I see this so often in classes. Many students are more worried about the future outcome than the present progress. You will find it easy to worry about the future in a class where standards are present. You know they are looming in the background. Rather than focus on the present and let the chips fall where they may, they work themselves up into a state where anxiety affects their performance. It prevents them from making the changes in behavior that equal improved performance. Formalized instruction is designed to achieve improved performance, but you have to stay in the present to reach the positive outcome.
The path less traveled
The high performer will look at each of these obstacles as an area of improvement. An overachiever looks at them as an area of weakness. I can see how at first glance they can seem the same, but they are not. Areas of improvement are tasks you have failed to master to a prescribed standard. You are working towards the goal. When you look at them as areas of weakness you avoid them. These areas are recognized as elemental to your master, but you have avoided them. Another way to look at this is you have focused only on what you are good at so you don’t have to worry about failure.
As an overachiever, when you tie failing to your identity, you see yourself as a failure. As a high performer, you recognize it as the process, embrace and even welcome the challenge.