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Compulsive Behaviors

Overcoming the Grip of Compulsive Achievement

You can break out of this compulsive cycle to find happiness.

Key points

  • People with compulsive achievement are often driven by a fear of failure and a need to prove themselves.
  • Childhood, parental pressure, cultural values, and personal characteristics can contribute to this compulsion.
  • Compulsive achievement can lead to stress and burnout, relationship and health problems, and unhappiness.
danilolivigni / Pixabay
Source: danilolivigni / Pixabay

Compulsive achievement is a complex problem with many causes and consequences. It is important to understand its nature in order to develop effective strategies for overcoming it.

What Is Compulsive Achievement?

Compulsive achievement, or workaholism, is a need to achieve and succeed. It is characterized by a relentless pursuit of goals without enough consideration of the cost. People who have compulsive achievement are often driven by a fear of failure and a need to prove themselves. They may be motivated by a desire for money, power, status, or recognition. They may also be driven by more altruistic goals, such as the "number of lives saved" or the "number of children who can pass an achievement test."

Causes of Compulsive Achievement

There are a number of factors that can contribute its development. These include:

  • Early childhood experiences: Children who are praised for their accomplishments and rewarded for their hard work may be more likely to develop compulsive achievement.
  • Parental pressure: Parents who push their children to achieve high standards may also contribute to its development.
  • Cultural values: Some cultures place a higher value on success and achievement. This can create pressure to succeed, which can lead to it in some people.
  • Personal characteristics: Some people are simply more prone to an achievement mindset than others. This may be due to genetics, personality, or temperament.


Compulsive achievement can have a number of negative consequences, including:

  • Stress and burnout: People with compulsive achievement are often under a great deal of stress. They may also experience burnout, which is a state of physical and emotional exhaustion.
  • Relationship problems: Compulsive achievement can interfere with relationships with family and friends. People may neglect their loved ones in order to focus on their work or other goals.
  • Health problems: It can lead to a number of health problems, such as anxiety, depression, and chronic fatigue.
  • Unhappiness: Despite their achievements, people with this compulsion are often unhappy. They may never feel satisfied with their accomplishments and may always be looking for the next challenge.
  • Integrity issues: A "win at any cost" mindset may result in "shortcuts," ultimately damaging integrity.

How to Overcome Compulsive Achievement

Overcoming it is not easy, but it is possible. Here are some tips:

  • Identify your values: What is important to you in life? Once you know your values, you can start to make choices that are aligned with them.
  • Set realistic goals: Don't set yourself up for failure by setting too ambitious goals.
  • Celebrate your accomplishments: Take the time to appreciate your successes, no matter how small they may seem.
  • Take care of yourself: Make sure that you are getting enough sleep, eating healthy foods, and exercising regularly.
  • Spend time with loved ones: Make time for the people who matter most to you.
  • Focus on the journey, not the destination: Happiness is not a destination but a journey. Enjoy the process of achieving your goals rather than focusing on the result.

It is also important to remember that achievement is not the only measure of success. There are many other important things in life, such as relationships, health, and happiness. When we focus on these things, we find that we are happier and more fulfilled, even if we don't achieve all of our goals.

Overcoming compulsive achievement is a process, not an event. It takes time, effort, and commitment. But it is possible to live a more balanced and fulfilling life.

Additional Thoughts

  • Be patient with yourself. It takes time to change ingrained habits. Don't beat yourself up if you slip up from time to time. Just keep moving forward.
  • Seek support from others. Talk to a therapist, counselor, or support group about your challenges. Having people who understand what you're going through can make a big difference.
  • Be kind to yourself. Remember that you are not perfect. You are worthy of love and happiness, regardless of your accomplishments.
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