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Are you obsessed with your goals..?


I recently attended the PSAUKI MEGA Conference in Manchester.  There I caught up with fellow climber Cathy O’Dowd.  She was speaking about her part in a record-breaking climb to cross the Manzeno Ridge on Nanga Parbat.  Her stories and images were stunning, but one phrase Cathy said struck a chord with me.  It was ‘Goal Obsessed Society’.  Lets look at those two words…

Goal – an aim or purpose

Obsession – something or someone you think about all the time

As a species, we need to achieve.  It may be in sport, adventure, business or education, but what is the true cost of our achievement..?  Are we risking too much, or ignoring our families in our obsession to achieve..?  Let me put this simply…

There are many phrases for the sufferers of any obsession, but most of them involve a disturbing word – widow.  This scares me as the word itself implies death.  The death of a love, a relationship, a life.  So why do we do it..?  Why do we subject the people in our lives to such pain..?

Though I may be writing about this, I’m no angel.  My mountaineering career has made me many friends, but it has also broken numerous relationships and almost cost me my life. These are not the greatest accolades that a man can have.  Fortunately my experiences have taught me much about what is truly important in my life, and change (though it has been slow) is coming, but I’m not perfect and I will never be.  As a youngster I worked, and worked, and worked.  I did 24 hr standby and I would have dropped anything to go into work.  How times have changed.  Work is now much further down in my table of my priorities as my leisure and my family are top.  As Graham Greene once said ‘Despair is the price one pays for setting an impossible aim’.  Because of this, I’ve been accused of being lazy or insulting to my professional life, but all I am doing is sorting my priorities.

I have on many occasions, sat surrounded by people who suffer a dangerous obsession with targets.  As a mountaineer, I know many people who feel that they have not succeeded unless they stand on the summit of a mountain.  These people can be very dangerous as they will risk everything to achieve.  I have backed off a number of major climbs, with only a few hundred feet to go, because I wanted to live.  The final ascent would have been too much due to poor weather, snow conditions, avalanche risk or the like, and I’m not indestructible.  I’ll happily face the facts and go home to climb another day.  Some might say that I don’t push myself hard enough, but when you’re teetering on your crampon tips at 20,000ft in a storm, you need to make the right choice…

Some of the worst scenarios I see in goal obsession are in the world of work.  On many occasions I have been surrounded by people completely engrossed in achieving their goal to an extreme level.  Sometimes through their own drive, sometimes because of a management decree, but they all have the same outcome.  Tempers have frayed, teddies have been thrown out of prams and accusations made.  What does this achieve..?  In ones best Derbyshire – Bugger All.  If you want to achieve something, infighting will not help.  I have recently seen a number of e-mails bouncing around industry laden with accusations and counter argument.  All they achieve is a bad feeling all round with little or no actual achievement.  Every mountaineering expedition I know that suffers huge amounts of infighting has failed.  Not because of the weather or the mountain, but because the team don’t work well together.  Any issues must be sorted before the climbing begins, otherwise you are doomed to fail…

Money is one of the greatest obsessions in goal achievement.  Put a number of people in a room, set them a challenge where you offer the winner a large lump sum and you will see them change into obsessives.  Some will quite literally climb over the bodies of others to get that accolade as top achievers.  If that’s what you want, then off you go, but please I beg of you, consider what it costs you to do it.  What it will cost in time with your husbands, your wives and your children..?

There is the other side of the coin though, particularly if you look at TV shows such as ‘The Apprentice‘. Only the most driven will succeed and there is no prize for second place. The Olympics has a similar view on life, and the ‘taking part’ seems to have given way to ‘only gold will do’.  I don’t think these people mad if that’s what they want, but it isn’t my world. I’ll quite happily tootle along at my pace and have a nice cup of tea when it’s all over…

1 thought on “Are you obsessed with your goals..?”

  1. Well said Nigel, Time freedom with all the natural energies nature brings to us, lubricated with sufficient man made money energy too, is significant abundance for us to be able to share, co~operate with & enjoy our time~out here together, without being reckless about it; Best wishes, Mark (in mutual bestowal)

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