More and more we hear of high achievers, people at the very top of their game, who simply pack it all in and walk away. Is it possible just to fall out of love with success and achievement, or are other factors at play?
There are a lot of high achievers in the world and probably many more who would like to be. The quest for success probably starts at a very young age and from that point a considerable amount of effort and energy is applied in order to get to the top. Alongside the drive for achievement is the stress of envying and competing with others. Many people who succumb to depression are high achievers, unable to stop pushing themselves, yet increasingly aware of their dysfunctional and unhappy lives.
We tend to measure success in material ways and through the acquisition and flaunting of objects. For some people this is enough but it isn’t uncommon to find that the acquisition of ‘stuff’, and sometimes power, isn’t as fulfilling as it may have appeared on the way to the top. Typically, sacrifices to fulfilling and honest friendships have been made and rivalry and destructive competition dominates over nurturing and fulfilling relationships.
Kate Losse joined Facebook in its early days. Her experiences and her decision to quit are articulated in her book The Boy Kings: a journey into the heart of the social network. Losse reveals how her, “initial enthusiasm quickly submerged by tedium”, and how “I was relieved at lunchtime when I could walk out of the office to San Francisco’s long piers.” She refers to “a form of crisis. You think you’re working your way up, but, really, you’re just servicing someone else’s vision and it’s making you disappear. I was using all my intelligence to cope with the fact that I was in an environment that had nothing to do with who I was. So I left.”
Having the insight and courage to walk away is far from admitting defeat. It could be thought of as a form of positive burnout. Almost invariably it leads to something simpler, less stressful but more fulfilling, and importantly, more rounded and grounded in terms of emotional balance, lifestyle and positive relationships.