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Success Can Only Happen After You Stop Obsessing Over It

Don’t let your “summit fever” consume you.

By Margaret PanPublished 3 years ago 5 min read
Photo by Matheus Ferrero on Unsplash

When a bottleneck caused multiple deaths on Mt Everest in 1996, social psychologist Christopher Kayes observed that many climbers suffered from “summit fever,” an obsession to reach the top that blinded them from making life-saving decisions.

He stated that reaching Everest’s summit became part of the climbers’ social identity. The climbers wanted to reach their goal so badly that they made poor decisions in pursuit of completing the journey.

Meaning? Their narrow pursuit of the goal inhibited them from learning from problems they stumbled upon along the way, like bottlenecks and decreased oxygen, which could have suggested they turn around.

So, what’s the moral of this story? You don’t need to be a climber to suffer from “summit fever”. Most of us become so obsessed with our goals and the hype of succeeding that along the way we make poor decisions that end up sabotaging our results.

Here are some steps you can take to finally stop being obsessed with success, let go of your “summit fever” and pursue your goals in a healthier way.

Define What Success Means to You

We often confuse other people’s ideas of success with our own. For example, one of my close friends is the daughter of two doctors.

Her parents desperately wanted her to become a doctor too, so, as she was growing up, they kept telling her that if she wanted to become successful in life, she needed to pursue that profession.

She ended up dropping out of med school after a couple of months there. Why? Because she realized that becoming a doctor wasn’t her idea of success in life. She dreamed of a different life. Success comes in many different forms and can be measured in a vast amount of ways.

You know, for instance, person A might think that they can be considered successful only after they create a family, person B might believe that making a lot of money will make them successful, while for person C just having a job could equal success.

Each of us is unique, and it’s natural to have a different idea of what success is. What matters most, is not to let other people influence your idea of success. Define what it means to you, and start working towards achieving it.

Recognize and Respect Your Limits

There’s nothing wrong with being ambitious and setting high goals. But when you overdo it and become obsessed with them, you can end up in an endless loop of anxiety, depression, and ultimately, self-destruction.

That’s why along the way, you should make sure you have guardrails that protect you from the potential self-destruction that obsession with success can lead to.

Turn inwards and try to recognize your limits. Remember, when it comes to boundaries, there’s no right or wrong.

Each person has their own limits, so it’s up to you to consider how hard you are willing to work, how much time you are inclined to devote, and how far you are willing to go to reach your goals.

After you set your limits, make a vow to respect them, or else, there’s no point in having them. Think of yourself as someone who goes on an intense ride and of your limits as being your seatbelt. Better safe than sorry, right?

Stop Comparing Yourself to Others

I’m not too proud to admit that when I first started writing, I read a lot of stories by other writers whose success seemed far out of reach for me.

I fell into the trap of comparing myself to them and as a result, my mind was constantly filled with thoughts such as, “What do they have that I don’t?” or “There’s always gonna be someone better than me”.

Truth be told, indeed there’s always gonna be someone who’s doing better than you. But there’s also always gonna be someone who’s doing a lot worse than you. The crucial question here is, does that influence the level of your own success?

The answer, of course, is no. For example, just because someone constantly writes articles that become viral, doesn’t prevent you from doing the same. Just because your friend bought a luxurious home, doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to buy a similar one in the future.

What I’m really trying to say is that you should stop using other people’s level of success as a checkpoint for your own. Comparing your achievements to those of others is a complete waste of both time and energy. Stay focused on your own work, on your own journey, and remember that the only person you should try to be better than is who you were yesterday.

Final Thoughts

Since I’ve never been a goal-oriented and highly ambitious person, I didn’t really think about success until after I finished college. At the time, I felt disoriented and helpless, and couldn’t decide on the best steps I could take to build a bright future.

There was one thing I knew for sure: I wanted to become successful. And as I started watching most of my friends settling on low-wage jobs and slowly walking away from their dreams, I started becoming obsessed with success.

I used to think that I wanted to become the kind of person that a parent would point at, and tell their kid, “Look, here’s someone who’s a great example for you”.

Of course, the more I obsessed over becoming successful — searching for the right strategies, tools, and paths — the farther I was getting from my goals. It took me a lot of time, self-reflection, and a specialist’s helping hand to finally realize and accept that success can only come after you stop letting it consume your thoughts.

And I guess that’s the only thing you need to remember after reading this story: embrace the idea of becoming successful, but don’t let it consume you. This way you’ll make smart decisions that will ultimately lead to your desired results.

This story was previously published on Medium.


About the Creator

Margaret Pan

Words have power.

I write about relationships, psychology, personal development, and books.

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