Success Stress – How Much Do You Have to Pay?
Success has its price. But what do we stand to lose when we reach for the heights of our ambitions?
The ”can do it all with one hand tied behind your back success” of the 1980s created the impression that success was about claiming and doing more. Smash the glass ceiling by lunchtime, outsource management, then pick up the kids at 6.00pm to enjoy a sumptuous lobster banquet at home (complete with prawn cocktail entree). After that, go out to successfully paint the town red… and that was just Monday.
That kind of success was a con that came with a terrible cost. I remember reading a magazine article back then about a woman who had 7 children, a horse stud, import-export business, thriving modeling career, and a writing career. Every photo of her successful life was a picture of blissful perfection. It was also a shocking lie. The real woman broke up six months later after a messy divorce and shambolic property settlement. Having sold the farm, she moved back – exhausted – to the suburbs.
Real stress kicks in when we start to juggle a family, career, and a relationship because success in one area typically vies with success in others.
Success requires time, focus, and energy. Bucket loads of it. For every success, you give these in exchange. To get to success there are no shortcuts. But we try.
Recently, my son was involved in a team that mysteriously got stacked with other players when the grand final match came. Success, it seems, was more important than doing the right thing. It’s a lazy way to gain success that undercuts what winning means. The price of success at all costs is a kind of private ugliness, where we trade off dignity for tributes. Sometimes, coming second at least means keeping our honor.
When success comes at the expense of someone we care about the cost is ongoing. Success that robs relationships exacts a heavy toll, and I’m not sure we ever really understand the cost until the damage is done. Not that we shouldn’t aim high and reach for the sky. Just, that we should be wise about success and its price. When John Lennon observed, “Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans” he was in part lamenting his loss of relationship with his son.
To have a successful life, I believe we need wisdom. To know why we are striving, and what is most precious. Not only will it help you find your path, but simply knowing where you are going with full awareness of the sacrifice is already success in itself.