Breaking Down Calculated Obsession with Achievement

Everyone loves the feeling of success. From getting a gold star on your homework to being recognized for excellence by a Fortune 100 company, success is something we’re all trained to strive for when it comes to our professional lives. But, like anything else, too much of a good thing can be bad—especially when it starts to drive negative habits and unhealthy behaviors.

Calculated obsession with achievement isn’t a clinical diagnosis and you won’t find it in the latest version of the DSM, but it is something that’s widely recognized in the corporate world. It’s a condition that can haunt everyone from temp workers to C-level executives.

Calculated obsession with achievement is, in short, a total self-envelopment in the drive for success. And while this might sound like a good thing on the surface, it can have major negative consequences. Like a drug, someone who bases their entire self-worth and wellbeing on the prospect of achievement is likely to have high “highs” and low “lows.” Life can quickly spiral into these two extremes, leading to everything from professional burnout to very serious health issues.

7 signs of achievement obsession

Just because you’re someone who’s driven to succeed doesn’t mean you suffer from an obsession. In fact, it’s very healthy to be competitive and focused when you have goals! The time to start worrying only comes when all aspects of your life are focused on and tied to these goals. Take a look at 7 signs that can signal an unhealthy obsession with achievement:

  1. Feeling defined by what you’ve achieved;
  2. Never being satiated with successes;
  3. Self-esteem exclusively tied to personal successes;
  4. Panic when facing unattainable goals;
  5. Achievements and happiness are mutually exclusive;
  6. Suffering setbacks and failures poorly;
  7. Chronic self-comparison tendencies.

Understanding the “calculated” nature of obsession

But why is it called ‘calculated’ obsession with achievement? True to its moniker, a calculated mindset is the chief driver of this affliction. Those who define themselves by their achievements and successes often take very deliberate steps to help them fuel their obsession.

Let’s take a very simple example: cleaning the house. This chore has absolutely no ramifications on personal success, but something that can be turned into a series of achievements by someone obsessed. This person might create extensive checklists of their chores, designate rewards for completing tasks or measure their happiness by how much they get done. The approach to something as simple as a few household chores becomes a calculated path towards validation.

How it affects entrepreneurs

Entrepreneurs who define themselves through a calculated obsession with achievement often create stress and undue burdens on themselves. Entrepreneurship, at its core, is the freedom to build your own successes—yet many individuals create lofty goals that put them in a position to fail. When they come up short or have to deal with unexpected setbacks—as many budding businesses do—they take the perceived failure harshly.

The result can range from self-doubt and business abandonment to depression and a questioning of self-worth. Many entrepreneurs are stunted from the outset due to an obsession with achievement and the inability to cope with failures on the road to success.

Breaking from the bonds of obsessive achievement

Entrepreneurship is actually a blessing in disguise for many individuals who suffer from a calculated obsession with achievement. One of the cornerstones of entrepreneurship is a failure! Being exposed to setbacks, failures, and downturn can help condition obsessive individuals, disassociating success from self-worth. Entrepreneurship teaches the importance of being able to surmount failure and still focus on success, helping people break their bonds and live healthier, without losing the driven spirit that has come to define them.

Content was prepared by an independent journalist under the direction of Molly Grubb AIF®CBEC®. Information presented is believed to be factual and up-to-date, but we do not guarantee its accuracy, and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of any subjects discussed. A professional advisor should be consulted before any investment decisions are made. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the author on the date of the post and are subject to change.

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