Congratulations, you did it! You completed that marathon. You bought a house. You lost those 15 lbs. You quit your job. You got a new job. You won your first Super Bowl. You won an Olympic gold medal.
You achieved your goal, but, now that things have settled down you’re starting to feel uninspired. Why is it that the success and completion of an achievement can actually result in feelings of emptiness and disappointment?
Many people experience a post-achievement depression after achieving something major in life.
If you’re operating on autopilot and just focused on getting across the finish line, sometimes the anticipation of success can easily take over and be more exciting than actually achieving your goal. Or it could be what Harvard lecturer Tal Ben-Shahar has described in his book Happier as the “arrival fallacy” or the false belief that once you’ve achieved something and arrived at a certain destination, you’ll find the happiness you’ve always wanted.
There are many different reasons why you could be feeling less than thrilled after achieving a goal. But, before you get stuck second guessing your life decisions and ditch future goal setting, check out these tips on how to avoid the post-success blues and set yourself up for goals that fuel happiness.
It might seem like a no-brainer, but after achieving a goal, time can move very quickly and seem like a blur. Either the days seem to go on forever or events are over before you know it. Many people feel too tired or busy to stop and take account of their progress. “When you accomplish something and don’t take the time to celebrate, you are robbing yourself of an important feeling that reinforces your success,“ writes Bill Carmody. “Celebrating your wins not only feels great physically, but it reinforces the behavior you want to show up when you face a new challenge or opportunity.” Take the time to soak in your achievement and get that massage, plan a night out with your friends or find some way to acknowledge your accomplishment. Celebrate and create a positive association with your hard work.
Depending on your personality, this may be harder than it seems. If you’re action-oriented and used to that go-go-go lifestyle, sitting still and thinking about life may be the last thing you want to do. But, research has shown that individuals “who spent 15 minutes at the end of the day reflecting about what they’ve learned performed 23% better” than those who did not participate in self-reflection.
In Why Reaching Your Goals Can Make You Less Happy, Melody Wilding explains that people can become so obsessed with achieving a personal or professional goal, that they often forget what their purpose and objective was in the first place. “Mired in busywork and the daily ins and outs of your duties, you may lose sight of the bigger ‘why’ of what drives you,” Wilding explains. “Without a sense of purpose, you climb the ladder of success with profound emptiness.” Take account of your experience and write/meditate/talk about how you got to where you are. Why did you do this? What worked? What didn’t work? What changed for the better? For the worse? Thinking about your actions can help positively influence future thoughts and behaviors to create more meaningful, productive and successful experiences.
Share Your Knowledge
Not everyone feels comfortable sharing their thoughts with the world. But, most likely, somewhere along your journey, someone shared a piece of advice that helped you figure things out. Whether it’s a mentor, friend or the written word, sometimes a small piece of advice gave you the encouragement and inspiration to help you cross that finish line. The road to success is never easy and it can also be very lonely. You might find that returning the favor and sharing your insight and expertise not only helps others but may lead you to a deeper understanding of what you’ve just experienced. Sharing your work whether by mentorship, writing or consulting, opens it to new ideas and perspectives, and “if you keep your eyes, ears, and mind open, you may learn something about the process as well,” writes Chrissy Scivicque in 5 Ways to Share Your Professional Expertise and 4 Reasons You Should. Teaching or being an authority on a subject matter can leave you more fulfilled (and more successful) than keeping everything to yourself.
Rethink How You Set Future Goals
Feeling less than stellar after achieving a big goal could be the result of how you view personal and professional goals. We’ve heard that happiness is in the journey and not the destination, but, how does that apply to dictating future goals? “Rather than adopting a goal you hope will change your life once you reach it, do it the other way around,” explains entrepreneur and executive coach Stever Robbins. Robbins pushes people to focus on creating a journey–a life–that would be ideal. “Choose the journey that for you would be awesome–the activities, personal growth, and friends,” Robbins says. “Then choose a goal that acts as a compass to give you that life as part of the journey.“ You might say you want to make a million dollars, but most people don’t want to live the life that often comes with making that kind of money. Think about how you want to live, how you want to spend your time, what you want to learn and who you want to spend time with. “In fact, the specific goal you set is almost arbitrary,” Robbins explains. “With the right journey, it won’t even matter if you reach your goal.”
Whether you’re fresh off your achievement or still contemplating the next step, it’s always a good time to celebrate, reflect and share how far you’ve come. Think about creating a life and journey that brings you happiness on a daily basis and the goals you want to achieve will become more focused, more fulfilling and they will naturally align to create the success and happiness you so rightly deserve.