Encore Anxiety: The Unbearable Dullness of Being Successful

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I had never heard the term “encore anxiety” until three days ago, but the more I read about it, the more it made sense to me.

Buddha suggests that “The mind is the source of happiness and unhappiness”. So how our minds are shaped and how we associate certain experiences and conditions with happiness? According to a survey conducted at the University of Michigan, respondents most frequently indicated that “more money” would improve their lives.* We live in a world where material gain is an end itself, not a tool. Same can be said for the success: it is not perceived as a tool for feeling ourselves better, it is an end itself. Success is never satisfactory enough while happiness is delayed and attached to a possibility of passing an exam, getting a job or promotion, having a new house or moving to a new city. We create an illusion that everything that makes us unhappy or unsatisfied will disappear once we achieve our goal. In the meantime, we tend to forget enjoying the journey.

While we glorify success, failure is an issue we try very hard to avoid. The fear of failure might become so threatening and intimidating that it can make us stop initiating. How can we invent, take risks, and improve if we do not let people to fail as well?  Failure can be considered as an opportunity for learning and improvement instead of a reason for encore anxiety. Embracing failure is one of the best tools for personal empowerment.

Let’s do some exercise.

Think about yourself.

Think about what make you happy. Think about a day when you felt extremely happy.  

Think also what make you unhappy. Think about a day when you felt extremely unhappy.

When I did the exercise and think about my happy and unhappy moments, I realized that none of them are related to my achievements or failures and in some sense I felt lucky that they are not related. If you feel that your happiness is too much dependant on the success, do not panic. There are thousands of reasons to be happy and unhappy and as Buddha says our minds are key, “all that we are is the result of what we thought”. It is OK to feel happy or unhappy. As such, it is OK to criticize the value system which leads us to permanent anxiety, dissatisfaction and depression.

by Derya Kaya