King Pyrrhus and his pyre

There once was a Greek king named King Pyrrhus of Epirus who led military campaigns against his Roman enemies during the 3rd century BC.

One battle he fought changed everything.

The aftermath of the Battle of Asculum was devastating, and in spite of King Pyrrhus's victory, the "win" came at great cost.

That particular conflict cost him many of his best soldiers, including his lead general.

It is stated that at the end of the action, King Pyrrhus lamented:

"Another such victory, and we are undone!"

The costs of this battle proved too much for him to bear.

King Pyrrhus was eventually forced to relinquish territory. He waged a few more inconsequential campaigns and then died in relative obscurity in war five years later.

Not in total obscurity.

Winning without winning

Have you ever heard of a "Pyrrhic victory?"

Guess who it's named after.

The term now refers to a victory with such a devastating toll on the victor that the win is basically a loss.

In essence, you're winning the battle, but you lose the overall war.

While people like you and I are probably not engaged in warfare in the sense that we commonly think of today, this doesn't make us immune to the trap of Pyrrhic victories.

Let's say you're in high school and your goal is to become popular. You're tired of being a goody-two-shoes that lives in the shadows of others.

You've always dreamed of being liked and adored by everyone, so you decide to pursue popularity.

You start going out to parties and get involved in the things that "cool kids" do.

  • You start to drink, underage.
  • Maybe you start smoking cigarettes too.
  • Maybe you get hooked on drugs.

You play the popularity game.

You begin to break the rules at school, because following rules is for "losers."

Hanging out with the "cool kids" gets you to behave like them, slowly but surely.

You gossip and talk behind others' backs. You wear two faces.

Enough time passes, and you become the star you've dreamed of being.

But at what cost?

  • You hang out with bad influences.
  • You've become an alcoholic with substance abuse issues.
  • You've ruined your reputation with your former friends, who no longer like you.
  • You've become a more dishonest person.

Let's see what the people who love and care about you think about who you've become.

A shell of your former self, you think you've won, but instead of taking a step forward, you've taken two steps backward.

You may have won the battle, but you lost the war.

The trap of tunnel vision

Photo by Sketchplanations

Pyrrhic victories aren't just applicable to youth.

They arguably happen more often with adults in their professional careers.

Let's say your dream is to become the CEO of the company you're employed at.

Many years and countless hours later, you've made it.

However, your tunnel vision on this goal you've set your sights on has cost you.

  • All the time you've spent working meant neglecting your health. You've gained weight from the lack of exercise. Rather than spend time prepping healthy meals, you develop a habit of eating quick junk food so you could work more.
  • The stress of the additional workload persuaded you to start drinking more to cope. That led to additional weight gain and a new friend of yours: alcoholism.
  • Your relationship with your partner has suffered tremendously since they've taken a backseat. Your work means everything and they've become an afterthought. Neglected, your partner is now considering leaving you for someone who knows how to show that they care.
Was your journey to become a CEO all it was cracked up to be?

Was it worth the cost?

Tunnel visioning on a specific goal can be deadly when you neglect other areas of your life.

Don't get in the habit of focusing so much on individual victories. Not every fight you want to fight needs to be fought, and not every fight you do fight needs to be won.

The war, the bigger picture, is what matters in the end. Think of the greater good for yourself and for others.

Your war can be about fulfillment and giving to others.

It can be about happiness, or taking care of your family.

There are causes that no position, not even CEO, can ever fulfill.

Remember this, don't lose sight of what really matters to you, and your victories will not be Pyrrhic.