Are You Suffering From Toxic Success Syndrome?

Published on: November 18, 2013

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“We’re constantly striving for success, fame and comfort when all we really need to be happy is someone or some thing to be enthusiastic about.” – H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

The earth is spinning fast even though we don’t really feel it. In the same way, many people’s lives are quietly and unknowingly spinning out of control and they do not feel it. In fact, they may think their hectic and busy lives are normal and necessary for some sort of success in life.

What is success?

Success is defined differently by most people, although it usually has some sort of accomplishment attached to the definition. Some think they are successful when they have a job they love, others a home and a car, and another might think being a stay-at-home mother of good children makes her successful. Success is a great idea because it is great to create and go after goals, but what I notice sometimes is that people, and society in general, have a bit of “toxic success syndrome.”

What I mean by this is that there is a push from society to strive for success since there tends to be a sense of lack in each person’s life. This sense of deficiency causes people to feel badly and so they strive to feel better by looking at all sorts of outward tasks and accomplishments to fulfill them.

Don’t get me wrong; creating goals, action plans, and taking action toward completing those goals are wonderful. I firmly believe that is wise, but what I believe occurs sometimes is that the longing to “feel important” or “be successful” puts people on this insatiable path that ends up frustrating them instead of causing them to feel peace and joy.

Have you observed the way children these days run from here to there to do this and do that? There seems to be parents pushing children to “be the best” and do, do, do! Play soccer at age three, football at age four or five, karate, chorus, theatre, dance, etc. I’m not saying that children should not be active in their interests, but what I do not agree with is this “push” toward being the best. Get first place. Make Mum and Dad proud, as if being mediocre just isn’t good enough. This can lead children feeling pretty discouraged when they don’t happen to excel in something.

We all want to feel accomplished. We all want to get adequate amount of attention. We all want to accomplish some goals, but are we delaying the feeling of peace and joy for some time down the road when we FINALLY arrive? Do you have this type of thought running through your mind?

“I will be happy when…..”

Toxic success syndrome is basically that type of thinking. It implies that you won’t be happy until A, B, or C happens and that is disheartening because you can be happy NOW. Regardless of how many goals you’ve accomplished, how much money you have, whether or not you have an intimate relationship, have the book published, have the job you want, etc. You really can be happy now even when A, B, or C hasn’t happened yet.

The practice of yoga and meditation has exploded in recent years for good reason. We as a society are tired of feeling this sense of deficiency, this yucky feeling of lack, and this awful feeling of emptiness. We’ve tried to make more money, get a different girlfriend or boyfriend, buy a new house, trade the mediocre car for a hot sport’s car, excel at work etc.

We have also tried to numb the negative feelings with various addictions like food, pills, sex, alcohol, etc. It doesn’t work though. Trying to fill the void, feel better, relieve the pain, gain recognition, quiet the mind, and feel important does not come via external means.

This is why practices like yoga and meditation are finding their way into our lives – even in the workplace. These techniques are providing good results that employers are tapping into the power of them because they understand that healthy and happy employee’s means less sick time and more productivity at work.

Why don’t we just get quiet?

Meditation is such an easy practice, yet the majority of people will not take as little as five minutes a day to just sit quiet with themselves? Why not? Easy as it may seem, we are so accustomed to going, doing, and thinking, that five minutes of stillness and solitude is difficult. What is disheartening is that if people simply realise that such an easy technique and practice can dramatically improve lives!

For example, meditation has been proven to reduce anxiety and stress. People have also reported less sadness and fatigue when performing this regularly. Yoga has been known to do the same. Getting in touch with the mind and the body is really quite simple, yet we feel that it isn’t worth it or we don’t have time.

We have time to do what we really want to do.

I assure you that it really is worth even the smallest amount of time you can put forth into it.

We sink plenty of time into striving for accomplishments in life so that we “feel” better. We sink thousands of dollars into schooling, therapy, medicine, so that we can “feel” better and more accomplished.

It’s time to do less striving and more sitting with ourselves. If there are yoga classes offered in your community, check them out. At the very least you can watch YouTube videos on yoga and do it right in the comfort of your home. Take 15 to 30 minutes per day to sit quietly with yourself for meditation. There are plenty of online guided meditations to help you out if you are not sure how to do it.

Aren’t you ready to stop trying so hard to “feel” happy and just relax and “be” happy no matter where you are in life?

I might not know the specifics, but I do know that there are avenues you can take to learn how to let go of the negative emotions you are feeling and enjoy the present moment no matter what is going on. Sure, you can feel sad or angry or frustrated momentarily (especially when something really untoward happens), but you don’t have to be controlled by such states for long periods of time. You really can learn to dance even when the storms are raging, laugh when all hell breaks loose, and rest even when the winds are blowing wildly.

We all want to feel peace and joy. We all have struggles, pain, and dreams to follow. But we do not have to live a life of striving and putting off feeling happy until the day A, B, or C occurs. Become mindful of your present and smile now. Enjoy life now. Celebrate the victories now.

But you don’t know my situation, Tony!

Life is a journey and we can feel peaceful and happy throughout the journey. If you have struggled with negative emotions, perhaps it is time to give meditation and/or yoga a try.

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