Unable to sleep the other night, I turned on the television and watched my favorite show, “The Twilight Zone.”
While most “Zones” usually leave me thinking at a philosophical level, this one had a big impact. This particular episode opens with Mr. William Feathersmith, a very rich and very successful business man, acquiring the last company he needed to complete his business empire. But instead of being joyful, we find that Feathersmith has fallen into a miserable state, drinking away his sorrows, not really knowing why he should be so morose at this time. When he describes his quandary to the janitor who enters his office, the wise custodian gives us an eternal quote about Alexander the Great, “He wept for there were no more worlds to conquer.”
Television’s Aesop, Rod Serling, who created “The Twilight Zone,” was teaching us an essential life moral. Reaching the mountain top is not as sweet as imagined. We are pushed to believe that high level achievement is the only prize and so we keep our eyes focused primarily on this goal. Rod Serling shares with us that the true treasure lies in the search.
In my coaching practice, I see this time and time again. A primary focus on outcome becomes a double-edged destructive sword to your emotional well-being. It can rip away your motivation as well as peace of mind. I have worked with many clients who have achieved at the highest level and now make a very comfortable living, but are frustrated because their inner flame has diminished and they want it back. On the opposite side of the spectrum, I have seen clients who are completely dejected and feel downtrodden because they are not achieving their desired goals for the year.
My coaching encouragement is to focus upon the continual pursuit of mastery of the task and let the outcome happen. Anyone in any field knows this as a business truth — when you master, you will eventually achieve. But this is not anecdotal knowledge. For many years, motivational psychologists have long known that individuals who primarily focus on mastery rather than achievement have less anxiety, greater persistence and ultimately greater performance.
Throughout time, many famed poets and authors have shared with us this truth of the human condition. More than 500 years ago, Miguel de Cervantes, the author of “Don Quixote,” once wrote, “The journey is better than the inn.” Employ this business wisdom and you will find this path leads to your success, both internally and externally.
Dr. Gregg Steinberg is a professor of human performance at APSU. He is the author of the Washington Post bestselling business book, “Full Throttle.” Dr. Gregg speaks to businesses about emotional toughness as well as mentors individuals on success principles. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit http://drgreggsteinberg.com/.