If you’re a high achiever driven by success, the answer is likely yes.
What is Repetitive Success Syndrome?
I learned the term Repetitive Success Syndrome from Pamela Eakins amazing book, Tarot of the Spirit. It arises in her interpretation of the Four of Wind card, which is Mastery.
It struck me as something that has come up in my life, and with many of my friends and clients.
As I see it, it shows up in two ways.
(1) We get locked into “what works”
Eakins explains Repetitive Success Syndrome as what happens when we find a method that works. We then become a technician to keep working according to the “proven” system.
The example she gives is a painter who finds success painting a certain landscape. The painter then continues to paint that landscape because that’s what sells.
She writes that the creative impulse is superseded by the impulse to attain material security.
(2) We Diminish Our Success
Another way Repetitive Success Syndrome shows up is when we lose sight of our success or diminish our success.
When what we once thought was hard becomes routine, we stop looking at it as a “success” and we don’t celebrate it.
We take our success for granted.
I noticed this happening in trampoline practice with my front summersaults. As recently as this summer, the idea that I would do this skill without safety lines was inconceivable to me. In September, when I first took the skill out of lines, I couldn’t stick the landing on my feet. The first one I landed on my feet was a huge deal. And for several weeks, it was a big deal each time I stuck the landing on my feet.
Fist pumps. Celebrations. It was a major high.
But something shifted in recent weeks as I gained more consistency with landing on my feet. I became more critical. Now I’m picking apart a slight stumble or step backward.
While I want to improve, being overly critical misses the point that what I’m doing is hard. Suddenly I’m expecting to land on my feet, and when I don’t, I’m disappointed.
The Side Effects
Repetitive Success Syndrome has side effects that harm our success and positive momentum.
(1) Depletes Confidence. When we take our success for granted it becomes harder to feel successful. We lose sight of the hard things we are doing.
(2) Kills Momentum. When we start thinking of what we’re doing as routine, we no longer feel successful in that activity. We need bigger wins to get the “achiever’s high.”
(3) Kills the creative impulse. As Eakins writes, getting caught in the “proven” method kills the creative impulse. We stop exploring.
(4) Unprepared for Market Shifts. Go back to the example of the painter. What happens when demand for landscapes dries up? The painter no longer has a product to sell. By sticking with his “proven” method he is unprepared for changes in the marketplace.
(5) Burnout. Our spirit wants to relish in the joy of discovery of new things. We have a natural impulse to be creative. When we stifle this natural impulse for too long, we disconnect from our spiritual force. Our life force. This is what causes burnout.
This is so relevant now as we wind up the year. It’s crucial to look at our successes; including the ones we may be taking for granted. By celebrating all of our wins, we keep them fresh and give ourselves a foundation of success on which to build.
I discussed this, and more, in today’s episode of My Circus Life. You can watch it here: