The Psychology of Success

by Bill Blundell
Joy Miller & Associates

When someone takes a job, they often have the goal of working their way up the ranks to reach the pinnacle of the company. But what does it take to get to “the top”—and what does that do to our mental health?

It is very easy for a person to get “tunnel vision” when they create such a goal. In other words, they stay so focused on one aspect of the job, success, that other parts of the job—and the person themselves—remain out of focus. So why do people get this tunnel vision?

Reaching the Top
Many times, when someone has set their sights on reaching the top, they have created unrealistic goals. This may lead a person to believe they cannot have goals in other areas—that reaching the top is most important, and in some cases, the only thing that is important. It makes sense that someone would want to reach the top of their company. Success can be measured, and the more successful a person, the better off they are in the eyes of society.

Success is often a sign of hard work, which most people appreciate and value. Other times, it comes at a cost, even when hard work is involved. This cost can be isolation, and isolation can lead to depression. One key benefit of success is for the person who attains it to enjoy it—but that is not always the case. Is your mental health really worth reaching the top of a company if you can’t enjoy it?

The isolation and potential depression that comes from the lack of human connection may increase over time without the person even realizing it. While striving for the pinnacle, their behavior can sometimes push people away and further complicate matters. As human connections diminish, it is highly likely that a person’s level of depression may increase. As depression increases, it perpetuates the need to keep people away, which is further isolating. This approach can even seem tolerable if the person continues to experience success in the job along the way.

Staying Connected
So how can someone be successful and not fall into a world of isolation and depression? It is important to stay connected to others. It is not uncommon for many people to go to work, do their job and leave, with minimal human interaction. That said, I do not intend to suggest the sole key to success at work is being social. The idea is to make appropriate human connections to encourage and foster success.

One of the most effective ways to foster this human connection is through executive coaching. This type of coaching can help a person get “unstuck” when they feel they can no longer move forward. A coach can help them come up with a fresh perspective on how to attain the success they are looking for.

Another way is by simply reaching out to friends and peers, so there is someone to confide in. The journey to the top is not an easy one, and the ability to talk to a trusted peer can be a positive way to expel any negative feelings one might experience along the way. If that person is in a position similar to what they would like to be in, it could help them in the same way as an executive coach. The key here is to limit isolation and increase human connections.

In conclusion, there is nothing wrong with the desire to achieve success by working one’s way up in an organization. But one should make sure they go about attaining this success in an appropriate way. It is easy to get stuck on wanting to be at the top—but it may not be worth the lack of human connection and possible depression that goes along with it. If you do take the journey, make sure to have people that support you and understand what you are doing so you can enjoy the success you are looking for. iBi

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