Wise Body

Signs of Unhealthy Striving and How to Strive Better

March 16, 2021

I don’t know when the cycle of unhealthy striving started for me, but I do know what happens when I get caught in it. I end up feeling depleted and empty, despite achieving outwardly impressive goals. I’ve gotten better at spotting my unhealthy striving cycle over the years and see the telltale signs. Do these […]

List of unhealthy striving behaviors imposed on background image of orange/red sunset
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Diana Hill, PhD, is a clinical psychologist, international trainer, and sought-out speaker on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and compassion

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I don’t know when the cycle of unhealthy striving started for me, but I do know what happens when I get caught in it. I end up feeling depleted and empty, despite achieving outwardly impressive goals. I’ve gotten better at spotting my unhealthy striving cycle over the years and see the telltale signs. Do these look familiar to you?

Unhealthy striving

The word strive comes from the old French word estrif, which means to compete or battle. When we are engaging in unhealthy striving we:

  1. Battle with the present moment– try to get somewhere other than where we are
  2. Battle with ourselves–try to be someone other than who we are

It makes sense that we strive. Our brains evolved to have a drive system that seeks resources, shelter, food, and a mate. The reward pathways associated with striving are old and powerful. Yet, when this drive system is used to avoid uncomfortable feelings or pursue goals that lack meaning, we can end up in achievement cycles that leave us feeling dissatisfied and exhausted.

Unhook from this modern day Samsara by shifting your brain’s drive mode toward a more compassionate, values-based drive. Ground in the present, orient towards your values, and take actions that help the greater good.

Signs of unhealthy striving

If you are interested in learning more about the striving cycle and strategies to strive better listen to my recent talks and meditations:

Shifting the Striving Cycle
From Striving to Letting Go

You can also check out my interview with Dr. Rechtshaffen on Timeshifting. He talks about the importance of taking the time to slow down and reconnect with ourselves on a regular basis. Check it out on Psychologists Off the Clock.

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