2 November 2014

What do you think when you hear the word obsessive?

Personally, I think it’s a word that has taken quite a negative connotation, yet there are always two sides to a story. The dictionary defines it as “the domination of ones thoughts or feelings by a persistent idea.”

So is having an obsessive streak in your personality necessarily a bad thing?

Surely most elite athletes’ thinking is dominated by winning that next race or attaining that personal best. What happens when an obsessive trait is put to good use? Think of the scientists who discovered breakthrough cures or the innovators who pushed through multiple failures to create some of the things we use every day, the electric light bulb being just one example.

It’s all about how badly you want to achieve something and the effort you’re willing to put in to reach that ultimate goal. Take the British Cycling team, for example. I’ve seen first-hand how seriously they take their training, and that includes not only their physical fitness, but also their emotional wellbeing and even their sleep. Believe it or not, when they travel to a meet, they take their own mattresses so they can guarantee a good night’s sleep! It’s because of this kind of dedication – which people might label obsession – that they are winning and constantly evolving.

Another example is the way people describe the routines and lifestyles of elite athletes or bodybuilders as ‘extreme’, the implication being that this is a bad thing or somehow harmful when, for the most part, these are people who maintain an incredibly high level of both physical and mental health. They are people with goals, with coaches or trainers who are equally driven and focussed, and who understand the importance of always keeping one eye on the horizon.

How many times do you hear of someone who has made it big and then, after enjoying the trappings of success, lost it all? It’s a crying shame when they have worked so hard to get to the top, but then lost the focus to stay there. A lot of the time this is down to celebration. This isn’t to say we shouldn’t celebrate our achievements; quite the opposite, as I think it’s important. However, it’s easy to get complacent and continue patting ourselves on the back for much longer than we really should.

That’s why, no matter how many goals you hit, it’s always really important to set new ones. It’s also why my advice to aspiring entrepreneurs and businesspeople would be: never stand still. It’s like running a 10k. There’s always someone on your heels, and if you lose the pace you risk letting the runner behind you take your place. For me, this is something that’s almost become second nature and I suppose you could call it obsessive, but I’m compelled to keep developing. It’s the only way I know, and I have no intention of stopping. Yet, I wouldn’t say it’s a negative thing. My business partner is my wife and best friend so we’re moving forwards together and in the same direction, and I always take time to slow down and rest.

Ultimately, as with many things in life, an obsessive nature can be a positive or a negative. It can be put to good use, driving people to attain the highest standards and chase goals, or it can be channeled into more self-destructive pursuits. Our lives play out as we choose them to. They don’t always follow our dreams like we want them to, but when things go wrong, it’s up to us to choose how we react and move forwards.

To me, life is a series of new beginnings and reinventions. It’s a continual journey, and one that – at each new stage – feels like it’s beginning all over again…

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