I posted a Facebook status update on Encore Syndrome and was surprised at the interest that it generated. I first heard of it from a Psych professor back when I was still in college. I thought then that it was merely psychobabble from a new professor who wanted to impress wide-eyed freshmen still reeling from the aftermath of actually attending a class at a prestigious university. She had described it as a condition characterized by a need to follow up one success with another, which is what happens during curtain call, when actors are taking their bows, and the audience screams “Encore! Encore!” (which has now been layman-ized further into “More! More!”)
If I could only cite names–which, for ethical reasons, I choose not to do– I would’ve come up with enough material to prove that Encore Syndrome is indeed real. If you ever decide to Google it and find less than satisfactory results, one reason is that it now comes with many names. For authors, they call it “The Second Novel Syndrome,” recording artists “The Second Album Syndrome,” and so on… My own experience digging through Google has led me to similar descriptions under various names, such as Success Depression (seriously!), Success Syndrome, and Encore Anxiety.
It took some time for me to realize that I, too, have fallen victim to it. After earning a college degree and not landing my first job soon enough, I felt that I had to do something “worthwhile.” So I enrolled in a Master’s program. When I did get my first job, I had to transfer to a different graduate program that was more aligned to my profession. Before realizing it, I was job-hopping and hoarding certifications in my personal quest for success. And after attaining one goal after another, I found myself asking “What’s next?”
At a job interview, the HR recruiter asked me, “Would you consider yourself successful?” I felt that it was a trick question, which I answered anyway. I failed that interview. Years later, and hopefully much wiser, I felt that I could have answered it better. It depends actually on how you view success. If one considered success as having one’s goal met, then a person has every chance of being successful at a given point in his or her life. The problem with this, however, is that everyone would be chasing one goal after another in an endless pursuit of success. Like being the hamster on a wheel.
In one of my readings, I came across this story about a lecturer asking the crowd “What is the richest place in the world?” Responses varied. Dr. Myles Munroe, in his book, The Principles and Power of Vision wrote:
“The wealthiest places in the world are not gold mines, oil fields, diamond mines or banks. The wealthiest place is the cemetery. There lies companies that were never started, masterpieces that were never painted… In the cemetery there is buried the greatest treasure of untapped potential. There is a treasure within you that must come out. Don’t go to the grave with your treasure still within YOU.”
He said further that everyone was born with a purpose, but it takes vision to fulfill it. “Purpose is when you know and understand what you were born to accomplish. Vision is when you see it in your mind and begin to imagine it.”
I took that lesson as a challenge. I began to make intentional choices. I made the decision to find out what purpose I was born with, and channeled my time and resources toward that purpose and only for that purpose. I asked myself the following questions:
- What are my key strengths? Are there areas where people and myself are in agreement that I’m truly good at?
- What are the things that I find joy at doing that I could do it even if I had to do it for free?
That’s where I started to overcome my encore anxiety. While I am still a work in progress, I do find myself living more peacefully now. Also, I take comfort in the scripture that says,
Encore Syndrome is real. But what Dr. Munroe had said also holds true, “The greatest tragedy in life is not death, but a life without a purpose.” So no more meaningless, tiring chasing after the wind.
Have you found your personal purpose? You may share your insights by posting a comment below.