This article originally published at Forbes.com
Entrepreneurs are routinely reminded that they need to “stay hungry” to sustain competitive advantage and success. Though that may be true, what you don’t always hear is that there is a real and present danger in becoming too hungry for success.
The difference between being hungry and too hungry can be summed up in one word: discernment. When you’re hungry for success, you are driven to go to great lengths to achieve your objectives — short of sacrificing your boundaries, values or integrity. But in being too hungry for success, desire overtakes discernment. You dive headfirst into dangerous territory where managed risk is no longer present.
In my many decades coaching, from Main Street to Wall Street, I’ve borne direct witness to the consequences of being too hungry for success. The financial and personal losses ranging from mild to life-threatening are consequences that can be avoided if one learns to recognize the warning signs
How do you know when being hungry is manifesting into being too hungry? Here are the top five signs.
1. You desperately make decisions: High achievers often feel pressure to outperform and prove themselves to others — at an accelerated pace at that. In a too-hungry state, your ability to maintain rational analysis amid challenges or crises is compromised, resulting in a false self-narrative that justifies unethical conduct to solve problems.
2. You’re impatient: When you’re too hungry, you take imprudent action, rationalizing that you must do something right now. Successful entrepreneurs understand the prudence in waiting for the right opportunity.
3. You have false pride: In a normal hungry-for-success state, you care more about successfully solving problems and overcoming challenges than about how you are being perceived, even if that means exposing your losses or mistakes. In a too-hungry state, ego rears its head, causing leaders to care more about the opinions of others. That includes shutting out those who can help them during critical times.
4. You lack faith: When you’re too hungry for success, you don’t make time to develop or practice habits that lead to maintaining positivity, confidence, faith and hope. Devoid of faith, you fail to gain the courage, strength, endurance, inspiration and direction drawn from having the mindfulness or spiritual practice necessary to grow and sustain success.
5. You’re a workaholic: In a too-hungry state, you prioritize work above everything, including your own and others’ wellbeing. You falsely believe you can’t afford to take a break, lest you risk failure.
Here’s a very important fact to know about becoming too hungry for success: Every single person can get into that state of being. In my book, I share real-life stories of good, ethical people who slipped into the too-hungry-for-success state, resulting in avoidable hardships. One of these stories is about a very successful entrepreneur — a charismatic president of his church — who got so angry and tired of being falsely accused of a petty crime that he began to fight back unethically. His justification was that because these people did him wrong, they deserved to be treated the way they treated him.
The takeaway here is that the pathway to prevention is to never allow yourself to become too much of anything, whether it’s hungry, angry, lonely or tired. What does that mean? Recognize and honor your most valuable asset (you) by maintaining healthy habits of self-care, no matter what is or isn’t happening in your life. Optimal self-care is doing all the things that you would advise your child or client to do to maintain a healthy body, mind and spirit.
Become vigilant in recognizing the too-hungry-for-success warning signs — and when they do begin to manifest, halt. Stop for a time-out to refuel yourself via rest, relaxation, sound nutrition, exercise and meditation. Your body needs to regain an objective state of mind. There is no risk in halting, only reward.