Pitfalls On Your Success Journey


As individuals embark on their path towards success, the concept of “work hard and play hard” often resonates with their ambitious nature. Meike, in her work with driven professionals, delves into the shadowy realm where success-oriented individuals realize that they have unknowingly developed habits that prove detrimental to their well-being. 

The Dichotomy of Pleasure and Necessity 

In the tapestry of our daily lives, routines and habits weave seamlessly, rarely demanding our conscious attention. They become deeply ingrained and operate largely within the realm of our subconscious. Most habits emerge through a reward-based system, encompassing a trigger, a response, and a reward. 

Consider the scenario of Lisa and Michael, two determined legal assistants at an International Court of Justice, who find themselves at the end of a demanding workday. Longing to unwind, they venture to a nearby bistro, yet their minds remain tethered to the events of the day. Their mental and physical states fail to disengage as swiftly as desired (trigger). Consequently, they opt for a bite or two and some drinks (response), setting the tone for the evening. As their bodies gradually relax, a sense of contentment washes over them (reward), eventually leading to an enjoyable social gathering among like-minded individuals at a bustling bar. 

The allure of success often leads individuals to seek out repeated experiences, irrespective of whether they yield positive or negative long-term consequences. Lisa and Mike, driven by this desire for repetition, tend to gravitate towards what has previously proven effective. Through subsequent iterations, they increasingly associate the conclusion of their day with the consumption of alcohol, convinced that they cannot relax as swiftly or as profoundly without it. Consequently, they may overlook healthier avenues of relaxation, particularly those that require effort. 

From Repetition to Dopaminergic Allure 

Alcohol, with its capacity to induce a rewarding effect, can be interchanged with any other addictive substance or behavior. Whether an individual habitually turns to painkillers, sleeping aids, cigarettes, sugar, or drugs to attain relaxation or finds solace in excessive eating, shopping, gaming, working, or sexual activity is of no consequence. All these behaviors share a common denominator: the release of dopamine, commonly referred to as the “happiness hormone.” Notably, addictive substances and behaviors elicit a much more substantial dopamine surge than healthier alternatives like physical exercise. Consequently, the desired effect of relaxation and well-being can be achieved swiftly and comfortably, as opposed to engaging in activities such as sports following a demanding day’s work. 

The Slippery Slope of Habituation: Craving for More 

Addictive behaviors provide momentary respite from feelings of loneliness and overwhelm. Within a community, they engender a sense of belonging and security, further reinforced by the release of oxytocin, often dubbed the “cuddle hormone.” Nonetheless, over time, a habituation effect sets in, necessitating an escalation in the number and intensity of these reward-driven habits to achieve the desired effect. As a consequence, the demarcation between the gradual encroachment of unhealthy habits and addictive behavior becomes increasingly blurred. 

Throughout our lives, we all cultivate distinct habits that enable us to navigate the complexities and demands of existence. Our subconscious mind, impartial to the dichotomy of healthy versus unhealthy, establishes those habits that allow us to attain a desired state of mind and function optimally within our circumstances. 

Navigating Stress Abroad: The Perrils of Hapitual Coping Strategies 

Expatriates, along with their accompanying family members, heavily rely on effective strategies for managing stress in the face of significant changes, challenges, and expectations that they encounter. If they have previously discovered that the use of certain substances or interactions helps them achieve a sense of calmness and reassurance, they are more likely to resort to these strategies on a frequent basis. However, over time, this can give rise to numerous risks that pose dangers not only to themselves but also to others. 

Building Resilience: Nurturing Healthy Coping Strategies  

A crucial initial step in addressing these risks involves breaking the taboo surrounding the subject and bringing attention to potential hazards during the preparation phase itself. It is advisable for expatriates to proactively identify a trusted confidant with whom they can reflect upon their personal stress coping strategies, as well as their approaches to dealing with the unexpected, crises, conflicts, overwhelming demands, feelings of loneliness, disappointment, insecurity, and the need for adaptation. This step allows for the evaluation and potential modification of these strategies as deemed necessary. 

Individuals who wholeheartedly embrace the motto of “work hard and play hard” find satisfaction and affirmation through the intensity and action they invest in their pursuits. Nevertheless, in order to attain a healthy equilibrium, incorporating periods of rest, maintaining a nutritious diet, fostering relaxed social connections, and engaging in purposeless forms of creative expression prove more goal-oriented. The alternating rhythm between intensity and relaxation ultimately propels individuals towards their long-term objectives, as it necessitates endurance and persistence. 

Meike, a certified Business- and EAP-coach, plays an integral role in guiding young international talents to overcome obstacles and establish a career path. Additionally, she specializes in addiction counseling within the context of mobile professional lifestyles, providing therapeutic support to individuals, couples, and families alike. info@coaching-expats.org

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