Updated: Oct 17, 2018
The term “Achilles Heel” was derived from the story of the powerful Greek mythological warrior named Achilles. As strong as he was, however, he had one weakness—his heel. Legend has it that, as a child, his mother dipped him in the river, Styx, which had magical powers that would protect him from the vulnerabilities of war. She held him with her thumb and forefingers, leaving this small area vulnerable to attack. Achilles would eventually meet his downfall when an arrow pierced him in his sole weak area— his heel. Thus, the term Achilles Heel was born. In spite of one’s overall strength, an Achilles Heel is a sole weakness that can lead to one’s failure or downfall. It can be a physical weakness or it can take the form of a mental, spiritual, character, logical or moral shortcoming.
I’ll be the first to confess that the Achilles Heel I live with is perfectionism. I want everything done just right—right down to the last detail. I am keenly aware of it and honest enough to admit that I haven’t overcome its grip in my life, particularly in business. Since I’ve acknowledge it as a weakness, I am able to keep an eye on it and easily recognize when it rears its ugly head. When I find myself getting too bogged down in the “nitty gritty” details of my work, my Achilles Heel “meter” goes off, which prompts me to delegate some aspect to another person while I stay focused on the big picture.
What is your Achilles Heel? Perhaps its procrastination, the opposite sex, blind ambition or money. Whatever it may be, rather than trying to justify it or deny that it exists, the first step to overcoming your Achilles Heel is the “fess up.” If you are in denial or fail to see the role that you play in contributing to the weakness, you’re either delusional or not paying attention. The problem with denial is that it creates a sense of safety. Wrong! Your weakness won’t go away simply by sticking your head in the sand. Additionally, trying to justify your area of vulnerability can be more risky than you want to admit.
There are degrees of vulnerabilities that we can face—some more serious than others. I honestly don’t believe that my perfectionism will result in my downfall, but it has cost me irretrievable time and money. On the other hand, I had to overcome the habit of procrastination because it caused me to miss out on opportunities, some were once-in-a-lifetime that I still regret to this day.
If you’re still struggling to overcome an Achilles Heel in your personal and professional life, don’t be afraid to acknowledge it for what it is. Take drastic measure to get rid of it if you must. In the meantime, recognize it for what it is and keep a watchful eye on it.