Why might maximizing your potential turn you into Tiger Woods?

I recently spent ten days at Texas Tech University, where I subjected the faculty of the psychology department to a round of video blog posts.

As the first part of a four-part series, I spoke to Associate Professor Chris Robitschek. I asked her about a potential downside of  maximizing your potential:


Chris runs a lab the explores Personal Growth Initiative. Her response highlights how difficult it is to be good at everything. I was particularly struck by how the desire to achieve one’s athletic potential, such as realizing one’s dream to complete a triathlon, could come to hurt other valued areas of life – especially one’s relationships. Indeed, a recent Wall Street Journal article raises the risk to relationships when one spouse takes on an ambitious athletic feat. Meet the exercise widow:

Newlyweds have long recognized the risks of potential sickness, infidelity and ill fortune. But few foresee themselves becoming an exercise widow. After all, the idea that one’s beloved will take the occasional jog sounds appealing—until two miles a day becomes 10 miles, not counting the 20-mile runs on weekends. “His dream of doing marathons happened just when I got pregnant with our third child,” Stephanie Beagley of Colorado Springs says of her husband, Michael, a purchaser for the U.S. Olympic Committee. “Now we don’t have tons of time with him.”


Don’t be this guy.