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When goal obsession goes wrong

Theresia Clara
Theresia Clara

Loves dancing, traveling, writing, fashion and photography

Kuala Lumpur  /  Tue, August 20, 2019  /  01:46 pm
When goal obsession goes wrong

Woman typing on a laptop (Shutterstock/Undrey)

Obsession isn't always a bad thing, especially when you're trying to achieve your goal. In fact, it's one of the top characteristics that entrepreneurs, businessmen or even normal people like us should have to prove that we're serious about our ambition.

Michael Moritz, the billionaire chairman of Sequoia Capital, thinks that people who do remarkable things tend to be obsessed with what they're working on. Obsession drives entrepreneurs to devote everything they have to build their businesses.

Robert T. Kiyosaki, the best-selling author of Rich Dad Poor Dad and businessman, advises us to change our mindset and challenge ourselves. For instance, when we want something, instead of thinking, “I can’t afford it,” we should ask ourselves, “How can I afford it?”

Obsession brings passion to the next level. It helps you to be laser-focused toward your goal. It's all about, "Do or do not, there is no try." It's as if plan B doesn't exist because you believe, somehow, you'll make it.

However, underneath the glossy achievements lies a dark side that could change your life and the lives of the people around you for the worse.

Three years ago, I was working as a writer in a company that provided an unlimited bonus. The amount of my bonus would be based on the number of the articles I wrote, therefore, I embraced the opportunity to fund my travels. That's when my goal obsession with traveling went wrong.

Here's what happens when goal obsession goes wrong, as mine once did:

You turn into a robot

When goal obsession takes over, you want to ensure that every day is spent productively. For my case, I had a list of how many articles I wanted to write in a day to the extent how many minutes one should be done. Aside from "good morning", I almost didn't speak to my colleagues the whole day unless necessary.

At the end of the day, I didn't really know what went on in the office. I missed the surprise birthday parties, the jokes, the group lunches. It was all about numbers. I was a robot who produced the highest number of articles in the company.

You create unnecessary stress to people around you

I get it. You put a deadline on your vision and you're so pumped up to see the result. However, being so focused on your vision, you may not realize that you're stressing the people around you. Of course, some may admire your high standard and take it as motivation.

But when it comes to working in a company or as a team, there's a possibility that your manager is expecting other team members to do the same. It's something unspoken yet felt within people around you, creating a gap between employees.

You develop "hurry sickness"

According to San Fransisco cardiologists Dr. Meyer Friedman and Dr. Ray Rosenman, "hurry sickness" is a continuous struggle and unremitting attempt to accomplish or achieve more and more things in less and less time.

Some of the symptoms are trying to do everything quickly, inability to relax even on holidays, lack of patience when dealing with people who have a slower pace than yours and feeling angry by unavoidable delays.

If this rings a bell, you really need to slow down as "hurry sickness" is bad for your health and performance. “Working at breakneck speed for extended periods of time does not enhance productivity; it reduces it,” says Edward Hallowell, the author of CrazyBusy: Overstretched, Overbooked, and About to Snap!

Being constantly in a hurry increases the stress hormone cortisol that leads to heart attack and stroke. In addition, you'll end up making more mistakes at work as you feel exhausted. After some period, your body won't be able to tolerate the behavior, resulting in declining performance.

You hurt your family

My mother used to tell me that it broke her heart to see me typing articles day and night. She pleaded me to take a quick rest in between as she's worried about my health. Family members who visited me from another country were disappointed when I allocated minimal time with them as I put my goal above all.

Looking back, I wish I could be more realistic and fair in managing time. After all, at the end of the day, when all falls down, your family will still love you and be there for you.

You let love slips out of your hands

The attractive guy who intentionally bought time so he could be in the same lift as me? The breakfast invitation, out of the blue text, body languages that screamed he's so into me? I just couldn't see or respond to them as I would normally do because my mind was occupied with a routine: work.

I felt so accomplished whenever I received my paycheck. My obsession eventually let me traveled to 11 countries in a year. But at the back of my mind, there will always be "what ifs" for the chances that I didn't take. 

You change... for the worse

The pressure to accomplish as much as you can as if you're running against a clock will change you. Suddenly, you become less sensitive, impatient, get angry easily and lack empathy. On top of that, you'll always feel exhausted and numb no matter how religiously you keep your exercise routine.

After almost two years of being unhealthily obsessed toward my goal, one day, I decided to slow down as I realized that it led to self-destruction. My colleagues were surprised and told me that they're so happy to see the changes in me. I felt more alive and able to form a deeper bond with the people around me.

Goal obsession is vital to realize your vision but don't let it consume you and turn you into someone you’ll regret.


Clara loves dancing, traveling, writing, fashion and photography. She’s also an avid practitioner of the FIRE movement and believes people can travel the world yet still be financially responsible. Check out her blog

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official stance of The Jakarta Post.