The Cold Mountain Effect explains how one can know too much. They can be too talented. They’ll make any project a lengthy trek through the Himalayas. In spite of the long hours, they never get tired. They don’t want to see the end. They’re not even perfectionists. They just love their work too much.

This article does a great job of describing the problem.

Anyone can get stuck on Cold Mountain. We can turn our goals into an endless climb. The question is, why?

We’re perfectly capable of accomplishing what we want. We’ve even done it. We’ve finished the ascent. But we refuse to plant the flag. We stay just below the summit, because we don’t want to climb down.

It feels good to be close to your goals.

Almost done feels better than actually done. We see the top. Instead of pushing our way there, we linger.

The reality is achieving success or accomplishing a goal rarely brings the euphoria sensation we expect. If it does, it rarely lasts. On the contrary, these achievements often carry further expectations and pressure.

The Cold Mountain Effect exists because of our obsession with reaching the top and getting admiration from others, while also trying to stay on the top doing something that’s very hard to maintain when moving forward in life.

Since I understood this, I came to realise that my fixation on succeeding at the top all the time was dangerous. Being fixated on something that’s increasingly difficult to maintain, will eventually lead to burnout.

That’s why I started to learn mindfulness meditation and the concept of emotional freedom. It allows me to notice my thoughts, emotions without being attached to them. It breaks this vicious cycle of perfectionism and procrastination that often leads us to anxiety and depression.

If you are finding yourself a victim of the Cold Mountain Effect, you can make a change today. You don’t need to throw away your dreams and ambitions, but you do need to start working towards them in a more mindful and pragmatic way.

Here are some suggestions that might help you from becoming a victim of the Cold Mountain Effect and starting to live your life today:

Don’t confuse being busy with being productive

Success is not necessarily measured by how busy you are but by how productive.

You can be doing the wrong things all the time and still be very successful. However, if you’re really in it to succeed, start knowing what is the right thing to do and what is the wrong thing to do.

It helps me a lot when I realise that our time is limited and we don’t have enough time in our lives to get everything done that we want to be getting done.

So instead of thinking about doing too many things, start focusing on the one or two most important things you are going to get done.

Enjoy the peak then come down

Bottom line, just stay active and productive — don’t get stuck in “almost done mode.”

Reach for the top when it’s time for that- but remember where that is and move down when necessary also! Remember always to be climbing up towards peaks of joy rather than dwelling in places of discouragement.

Even the greatest athletes like Serena Williams and Roger Federer are not in their peak performance state all year round.

Replace your goal of “being at the top” with “doing something useful”.

Once you realize that the above scenario is dangerous, instead of shooting for being at the top, start working towards a goal of doing something that is useful.

Don’t get me wrong. The point isn’t to come down from Cold Mountain entirely and stop caring about reaching your goals at all. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth.

Don’t let me confuse you, I’m not saying stop caring about your goals at all. I’m simply saying don’t put too much thought into where and when you will reach the top, but instead focus on doing something useful in the present moment that will help get you closer and closer to your goal.

Let go of materialistic goals

Let go of thinking that your career has to be about achievement, advancement or money.

If you’ve been fixated on these things all your life, it’s time to change that. After all, they aren’t necessarily good for your health and well-being — studies show that focusing too much on achievement can lead to depression and anxiety.

Stop comparing yourself to others

Comparing ourselves with other people is a sure way of becoming unhappy. The next time you find yourself comparing your life now to someone else’s, step back and look at what you have achieved in your own life.

You are far better off seeking out people who will support you and cheer you on, than negatively comparing yourself to those around you.

The sooner you stop looking for perfection and accept that being human means being imperfect, the better for your well-being!

Be okay with being mediocre

Your biggest critique is most often yourself. Your version of mediocrity may already be exceptional. Learn how to accept being good enough, without feeling like a failure for not reaching the absolute top in your field.

You don’t have to be at the top of your game all the time. Everyone has off days, but not everyone is willing to admit it or learn from them. If you are suffering from the Cold Mountain Effect, instead of always focusing on being great and perfect all the time, start accepting your mediocrity when it comes around.

Find your passion

Find your purpose/passion and keep doing it even if it doesn’t bring any money or recognition. When you get to do something that fascinates you, the stress and pressure of always looking for perfection start to disappear. You start knowing that the best thing to do is be in your present moment and focus on doing something useful.

Enjoy the journey

If you have a tendency to be fixated on being the best, achieving your goal or getting your work out there for everyone to see, start re-training yourself.

Stop trying so hard and just enjoy the journey. Don’t wait to get to the top of Cold Mountain — enjoy every single step along the way!

Stop defining yourself by your goals and achievements.

You are not your goals and achievements. You are the intersection of your skills and knowledge, and some very important values that you hold dear. Surely, that’s a much better place to be.

If you define yourself by your goals and achievements, the more time that goes by with no significant achievement or goal reached, the worse you feel about yourself.

Again, I’m not saying don’t care about your goals at all. Instead, just try to look at them in a healthier way — like they are separate from who you are, and not an indicator of your identity or self-worth.

If you are struggling to reach your goals, it may be because you have been fixated on being at the top all the time. It’s important not to let that stop you from caring about reaching your goal; just don’t put too much thought into where and when it will happen. Instead of always focusing on being great and perfect all the time, start accepting mediocrity when it comes around. If there is a tendency for self-doubt or comparing yourself with others in order to stay motivated, try changing how you define success by looking inward instead of outwardly. You can also find meaning outside of money or achievements through passion — something we should remember every day!

Understanding these ideas helped me overcome the Cold Mountain Effect. It was part of a long journey that started when I decided to change my goals in life and be more adaptable by focusing on what really mattered instead of being fixated on reaching the top. Every time I discovered a new way of doing things, my life became easier and more fulfilling.

I hope this will be helpful to anyone who is dealing with the Cold Mountain Effect or any similar problem.

Originally published at on October 30, 2020.

Photo by Joel Peel on Unsplash

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