Type- A personalities have a goal-pursuit mindset as default hardwiring. This is excellent for executing and producing achievement. Nonetheless, it also creates anxiety. You’re always focused on the future because nothing you do is enough. This mindset taken to the extreme comes with an internal narrative that follows along the lines of “only if X happens, I can then allow myself to be happy, to be satisfied, to feel good about myself, to feel successful, etc.”. This is the byproduct of the belief that there is no inherent worth, so consequently, you have to “earn respect and validation” through rewards (money, status, achievements, skill, knowledge, toughness, etc.)
In my personal life, I realized this a delusion as every achievement opens the possibility for more significant achievements within the horizon. There are hundreds of stories of millionaires, celebrities, and world-class performers who hang themselves because they didn’t found any joy or satisfaction in the goal they had worked towards for years. Most of the valued milestones in western society don’t preserve their value once they are obtained. That is because our brain is wired to look for the next shiny object. In psychology, this phenomenon is known as hedonic adaptation. It is defined as the tendency to quickly return to a relatively emotionally stable level despite major recent positive or negative events or life changes. From a neurological standpoint, your attention jumps right away to the next goal because no long after achieving a goal, your brain stops producing Dopamine, the neurotransmitter of pleasure. It is the same reason human beings are wired to believe that “the grass is always greener on the other side of the hill.”
If you are convinced yourself that there is no time for savoring, no time for receiving appraisals, no time for acknowledging the positive on your work, and lastly, no time for relaxing. Let me tell you, my friend, that you might be already trapped in that downward spiral because guess what… there will always be undone tasks ready for you to act on. There is still the possibility of achieving more. Brene Brown’s book Gift of imperfection tries to convey that no matter what gets done, how it’s done, and how much of it gets done… you are enough. There is power in always acting from a place of self-love and worthiness. Self-care and self-love are not selfish acts because how you treat others is only a reflection of how you treat yourself.
I learned from the book, High Performers Habits by Brendon Burchard that being satisfied doesn’t mean “settling.” It simply means accepting and taking pleasure in what is. It’s allowing yourself to feel contentment whether or not a thing is complete or “perfect.” You have to allow yourself to feel fulfilled and enjoy the journey now. That doesn’t have to bring your performance down. The more you value keeping yourself healthy, joyful, energetic, the more you can unleash your potential to impact others’ lives. Likewise, it is the only way to maintain your career growth sustainable over the long term.
Here are three different strategies that will help you to break the inertia of a goal-pursuit mindset:
1. Create awareness of the present moment and cultivate an appreciation for what you already have.
2. Reflect and journal what’s going well. Record any progress, any wins.
3. Be aware of hedonic adaptation and start valuing the process more than the desired outcome.
4. Whenever you begin a conversation, talk about what’s working, what people are excited about, what difference your efforts are making in others, and maybe the one great thing that has happened that can spread joy, pride, and fulfillment. This doesn’t mean you neglect what isn’t going well… but it balances your negative biases.
A breakthrough I had in my own life, which helped me break this thought of pattern, was to realize that external achievements are not absolute. Their value is connected to what is essential to you. The main issue is that goals are valued based on the individual worldview shaped by the personal background, not by objective standards. If others can find meaning in their lives without aiming to achieve your same goals, so you do. Despite this, this is not an invitation to stop aiming towards what you want to achieve but rather to refuse to play a “zero-sum game” where your value as a person depends on your results. One of the most valuable lessons I learned from Tony Robbins is that fulfillment is not a byproduct of achievement. Being fulfilled is an art in itself, and unless you start cultivating it, you will never feel whole.
So my question is, if you couldn’t achieve anything else in your life, would you feel enough?