Do you suffer from Summit Syndrome?


One of my lovely readers (hi Chris!) sent me a link to this article last week entitled You’ve strived … you’ve won … now what?  Funnily enough, Ant had send me the link to the same article the day before.

The article describes something that is very common to compulsive strivers and over-achievers – they call it Summit Syndrome:

You’ve been working hard to master a new job or to perfect a new skill. You’ve put in the long hours and loads of effort and you’ve finally made it. You’ve hit the pinnacle. You’re at the summit. But … making it to the top doesn’t really feel how you expected it to feel. In fact, you feel a little, well, empty inside.

Ironically, if you’ve read Chapters 3 & 4 of my book (the most recently released chapters) you will see clearly the point in my triathlon life where I experience this very thing. The only problem is that it took me two years to realise I had reached the summit.

For most people though – they realise it straight away. In fact, if we go back to triathlon quickly, I can say that I used to witness it all the time in fellow athletes after a big race like a Half Ironman or an Ironman or a marathon. You spend months and months working towards the goal of finishing a big and challenging event. Then you experience the high of finishing said event – you party hard that night and celebrate your achievement. And then the next week … you crash and burn.

It’s because you are rudderless. You have no idea where to direct all the passion and drive that was previously being  funnelled into your training. And when passion has no outlet it dissipates very quickly leaving you feeling flat and even a little bit depressed.

What’s the cure? Well the article has a few ideas but from experience I can say only number four on their list comes close – Constantly set new challenges and activities that stretch you.

In short, don’t put all your eggs in one basket (especially for athletic challenges where injury or a very bad day can undo all those months of training pretty quickly). At any given point in time, you should have a few things that you are striving for. This means when you finish one thing (ie reach the pinnacle), you have a ready outlet waiting in the wings into which you can re-direct your energy.

One caveat here: ALWAYS make sure you take the time to pat yourself on the back for a job well done first … but then quickly focus your eyes on the new prize.

For example – a huge amount of my energy right now is going into writing my book, especially as I have accelerated things a bit because everyone has told me a chapter a month is too much of a tease. I am hoping to have the book done by mid-December and when I reach that point I am going to celebrate like it’s 1999. Then I am going to move on to the next thing. I have a few little projects that are waiting in the wings, just dying for the book writing to be over.

Now I can hear you all from here: Kelly, it doesn’t sound like you’re living a life less frantic if you’ve got projects lined up as far as the eye can see.  And to you I will say read this post.

I know that for me to enjoy life I need to be striving. But Summit Syndrome is the real deal and can be quite crippling. So I avoid Summit Syndrome by keeping my dance card nice and full of fun and exciting partners to tango with ;)

Are you the same as me? Have you ever suffered from Summit Syndrome? How long did it last and how did you cure it?!