This is the moment you’ve been training for; all of your effort over the past weeks, months, and years has been for this moment. It’s finally the big day, the biggest challenge you have undertaken; you are ready for it. You start, you struggle, but in the end, you succeed, and then you are hit with the most anti-motivational question: now what?
Whatever you have been working towards. Whether writing a book, climbing a mountain or running a marathon, success can be anti-motivating and lead to bad habits. You accomplished something really hard, so it is easy to rationalize that it is enough. But remember, life is long.
Accomplishing an important goal makes you feel euphoric. Then, after a surprisingly short period, that feeling passes, and you become empty. This emptiness is known as a “success hangover.” All that time you were dedicating to accomplishing that task is now free, and you don’t know what to do with it. In this blog, I will illustrate some things you can do to prevent this hangover and keep you from achieving even more significant challenges.
Goal vs. Growth mentality
As Victor Frankl described in A man’s search for meaning, your mindset is the one thing you always have control over. Events can arise in your life that will make you happy, sad, scared, angry, surprised or even disgusted but how long these events keep you feeling that way is up to you.
One big decision you need to make regarding your mindset is whether you want to be goal or growth-oriented. These mindsets differ in their response to success and failure.
A goal is finite; there is a threshold at which that goal is achieved. When you have a goal mindset, you are blind to what lies on the other side of that goal which leads to the success hangover when you do succeed.
When you develop a growth mindset, there is always another step. Where one goal ends, another begins in an endless staircase of self-improvement. The project, skill or target may not always be in the same category, but there is always something next to do with your constructive leisure time.
Failure is unacceptable with a goal mindset due to the black and whiteness of the perspective. Either you were successful or failed; there is no middle way. Failure feels terrible and can be anti-motivating if nothing is gained from it.
Failure can also be a positive experience if you have a growth mindset; it is a learning experience. Peter Diamandis readily discusses the importance of failing quickly. The more you fail, the more things you try and the more you will have learned from those failures.
Think of your next step
Learning to grow continually means learning to constantly think about the next step. Joe Simpson illustrates the importance of knowing your next step when he describes reaching the peak of Siula Grande in Touching the void. His first thought upon reaching the summit was:
“what’s now?”Joe Simpson
Lucky for him, he did not have to ruminate on this question for long because he broke his leg on the descent. This accident transformed his journey from a casual descent into a fight for survival, where he was constantly thinking of the next step. While his next step was decided by faith, you can choose your own.
When you have accomplished something, set yourself another challenge, or increase the level at which you want to achieve that task. If you don’t, you might turn out like my brother and me after our summer marathon. After completing our sibling rivalry marathon, we descended into a junk food frenzy. Our running tapered, and our eating habits got a reset. We also decided that our goal for the following year would be to accomplish a marathon in under five hours.
Adding a time limit to an already challenging event is the next step in our long-term running habit. We are keeping each other accountable and motivated to run regularly.
As mentioned, the problem with goals is that they can be reached, and once achieved, they degrade your motivation. This is where meaning becomes crucial. People run marathons to challenge themselves, seeking that feeling of accomplishment, but it is more than that. Running has to be something you identify with. You must think: I am a runner. This identity will have you craving running.
How you perceive the activity determines your next step after you accomplish it. If it is something you do not enjoy or identify with, that habit will not stick no matter how hard you try. You have to want it.
The best way to change your mindset is to be aware of it. Meditation centers you and teaches you to appreciate the present moment. Through meditation, you learn to galumph – taking a long way home or doing something just to do it.
You become resistant to the success hangover when you learn to do things without a definite goal. You can become driven by curiosity and self-development rather than goals. You will keep attaining goals and improving yourself, but you will never fully satisfy your curiosity.
This curiosity will keep you motivated after your accomplishments. Now is the best time to start practicing aimlessness. Start practicing meditation, learn a language, or take an ice bath. You can live a full life without ever doing any of these things, but they will make your life even fuller if you do them. Reach out to me if you are unsure where to start and want some help, or sign up for my newsletter below and get these posts sent directly to your email.