Motivation Positive

Post Achievement Depression


Achievement is an amazing thing. It’s the result of a great deal of perseverance, hard work, constant efforts, and frequently overcoming challenges. We’re trained to pursue it, work for it, and most of all, relish it when we do. In light of this, why do we occasionally experience a sensation of emptiness or an unexpected dip in mood after accomplishing our goals? This unexpected (and, to be honest, really nasty) response to achievement is known as the “Post-success downer,” or The Arrival Fallacy in professional terms. It is a psychological phenomenon that occurs after a significant achievement.

It comes as a sudden, unanticipated flood of sorrow, a peculiar sensation of worthlessness usually after the accomplishment of a lifelong ambition. Individuals in a variety of professions, including academics, entrepreneurs, sportsmen, and artists, have spoken of experiencing this void following significant achievements. It also doesn’t mean that you lack partying skills or are ungrateful. It’s a perfectly natural and human response to an abrupt and major shift in your life’s circumstances.

Read More: The Psychology Behind Achievement

What Is Post-Achievement Depression 

Post-achievement depression involves experiencing a sense of worthlessness or sadness after completing a long-standing goal. This can produce a wide range of emotions, including lack of motivation, tiredness, restlessness, frustration,  apathy, self-doubt, sadness, or an overall sense of melancholy and existential crisis.

This is a common experience and can happen in all walks of life. Students concluding their academic journeys, writers typing the final words of their manuscripts, office employees securing hard-earned promotions, and athletes concluding their competitive careers, the aftermath of achievement knows no bounds. It’s a shared human experience, that resonates deeply across various paths and fields. Let’s Examine the findings of the Psychological Research

Although the phrase “Post Tenure Depression” has been mostly used in the academic community to refer to the depression that frequently appears after a significant accomplishment. Consider the infamous “vacation blues,” or that peculiar, depressing sensation you get after finishing a very good book or a TV show that you should binge-watch. These are all situations when you enjoyed the build-up or the journey, but the conclusion merely left you feeling empty.

However, why does reaching a big objective, something that should be happy and satisfying, result in this feeling of emptiness or a sense of loss?  It turns out that our nature is to strive, to chase, to pursue. Not often the actual catch, but the pursuit itself is what gets our pulses racing and our adrenaline rushing. As you have undoubtedly heard before, sometimes the trip may provide greater fulfilment than the final goal, although this may seem counterintuitive.

Additionally, there is an emptiness left behind once the pursuit is done and we have successfully caught the elusive rabbit. We lose the thing that motivated us and kept us going, and the post-achievement depression creeps in. It’s the unexpected emotional hangover that follows our pursuit.

Read More: Depression: Symptoms, Causes, Types and Treatment

Causes of the Post-Success Downer

So we discovered that the post-success downer is similar to the unanticipated narrative twist in our victory story. But what causes this unusual occurrence? Why do we feel imprisoned in a never-ending philosophical debate about life, purpose, and happiness just when we believe we’ve arrived at the ‘happy ending’? Here are a few potential party poopers.

  1. Purpose Vacuum: This is an important one. When we work on anything, it often absorbs us. Our routines, thoughts, and lifestyles revolve around it. However, once the aim is achieved, it leaves a gaping emptiness. There is now a lot of free time and mental space, and we’re eager to fill it. As interesting as that seems, you’re probably well aware that it isn’t.
  2. The Psychology of Achievement: The human brain is powerful, yet it can be too dramatic at times. You see, our brains like the thrill of the search. The dopamine rush associated with attaining a goal may be addictive. However, as we approach the finish line, dopamine levels decrease. We may experience deflation if we no longer receive the regular joyful chemicals.
  3. Identity Crisis: The majority of us have more than simply goals to achieve. They are part of who we are. We identify with our goals, jobs, and aspirations. “I’m a writer working on my first novel.” So, what happens after the novel is published or the start-up becomes a successful business? Suddenly, the identity we’ve had for so long is no longer valid. This might lead to an identity crisis and an overwhelming sense of emptiness.
  4. Social Pressures And Expectations: Our culture values achievement. We are typically defined by our achievements, awards, and titles. This creates a huge buildup of expectations. We imagine the moment of success to be like entering a promised paradise of eternal bliss. However, real life is not a fairy tale, and when reality does not match our expectations, it can be disappointing. A very famous  quote that said, “It’s the biggest tragedy in life  that even when you have everything you ever wanted, you ‘ll  still feel miserable.”

Take a deep breath before you consider accomplishment to be a no-win situation! Understanding the causes of post-success sadness does not mean we should stop creating and completing objectives. It just means that we need to approach our accomplishments with a little more awareness and perhaps a spoonful of philosophical salt.

Read More: Consistency: A Real key to Success

Steps to Overcome the Most Common Goal-Setting Mistake

The arrival fallacy states that, while we may fill our lives with more ambitious goals and pursuits, reaching these heights does not necessarily result in fulfilment. Yes, as cliché as it may sound, it is the journey rather than the destination that teaches us lessons, reveals simple delights, connects us to new people, and instils in us a genuine, internal feeling of fulfilment. All of this isn’t to argue that having goals or striving for success in a certain area of your job is a recipe for misery or failure; rather, it’s how you let that goal control your daily attitude that might drag you down. Striving for self-improvement is crucial. Here is how to accomplish it.

Rediscover your mission

It’s possible to become so obsessed with reaching professional goals like earning a specific income or obtaining a prominent work title that you lose sight of your original purpose. Mired in busy work and the day-to-day details of your responsibilities, you may lose sight of the larger “why” that motivates you. Without a sense of purpose, you will climb the achievement ladder feeling profoundly empty.

When this occurs, set aside conscious time to refocus on your objective. Take a day or two to refocus. You don’t need to travel anyplace. You may imitate a professional mini-retreat by asking yourself huge questions like “What would I be doing if money wasn’t a problem?” Oder “When do I feel most alive?” Through this personal examination, you may discover that what you value more than a promotion or increase is the potential to make a significant difference, manage a team, or just feel more recognized and valued at work.

Value The Process Over The Final Result

External awards and traditional financial incentives do not promote employee performance, according to studies conducted by social scientists such as Daniel Pink. They may even backfire, making it harder for individuals to come up with novel answers. Instead, research suggests that high accomplishment is the outcome of intrinsic drivers–a desire to do something for intrinsic reasons, self-fulfilment, or enjoyment.

People become more motivated when they want to improve their skills. Successful people like the learning process and do not mind if it extends beyond the planned period. They enjoy the road towards expertise. They emphasize the happiness that is developed along the way to a certain goal, rather than the tangible achievement. Try to enjoy how rewarding it is to close a big deal, how truly loved and seen you feel when your family notices your successes, or how your firm is earning more industry recognition.

Commit to a system

Setting an audacious goal, such as publishing a book or founding a firm, can be a powerful motivator for change, but it is insufficient. You must commit to a consistent action plan. Begin by asking yourself, “What changes i can incorporate daily to ensure results and propel myself forward?” Design your habit system. If you want to be an author, make a weekly writing plan. If you are an entrepreneur, create standard operating procedures to simplify your work. Whatever it is, it must be a sustainable action.

Recognize that success is like a  fluid

Understand that success measurements, whether in terms of work, fitness, love, or anything else, are fluid and dynamic. There is always a higher rung on the ladder, and your objectives alter over time. By the age of 35, the great profession you had in your 20s may have become a bad work-life match. Instead of dictating professional milestones that society expects you to attain by a specific age or wage bracket, leave your choices open, define success on your terms, and seize the numerous chances that arise along the road. Rather than striving for a “cure-all” final goal, it is crucial to see life as a series of actions that contribute to an imperfect but magnificent large picture. Greatness is the result of years of tenacity, effort, and several missteps.

Read More: Some Psychological Habits of Successful People

Post-achievement depression is a typical occurrence that can strike anybody who has accomplished a big goal or milestone. Understanding the origins and symptoms of this ailment is critical for devising successful treatment plans. Individuals may overcome the slump and rediscover their motivation and purpose by understanding the value of self-reflection, planning for the next objective, and living a healthy lifestyle.

References +

Lmsw, M. W. (2016, December 2). Reached your goal but still unhappy? 4 steps to take. Psych Central.

Gangloff, M. (2022, January 8). Why success can make you depressed – Better humans. Medium.

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