If you have seen the animation film "Megamind," you probably remember all the cruel ploys and countless efforts Megamind puts into achieving his life-long dream: overpowering his arch-nemesis Metroman, and how ironically short-lived his exhilaration was after his success. Instead of going about his malicious deeds happily ever after, he soon succumbs to a looming, in his own words, "melancholy."

One of the sketches from Seth MacFarlane's “Cavalcade of Cartoon Comedy" explores a very similar idea within the frames of an alternative version of “Wile E.

Coyote and the Road Runner.” In it, the predator finally manages to catch the Road Runner, only to fall into the trap of a severe case of post-achievement blues soon after. Both cartoons portray a tendency which has various manifestations throughout different societies - the chase being sweeter than the catch. We may not realize it until the clutching feeling of emptiness takes us by surprise, not long after conquering the peak we had spent so long gazing at.

The science of the post-achievement blues

It turns out, it's all in our heads. But that doesn't make it any less real. Dr. Robert Sapolsky, a professor of biology and neurology at Stanford University and a research associate with the Institute of Primate Research at the National Museum of Kenya, conducts an insightful experiment.

It involves a monkey that has to press a button when signaled to, and in return the animal receives food each time.

By tracking the dopamine levels in the monkey's brain throughout the whole process, Dr. Sapolsky draws an interesting conclusion. The thrill and pleasure actually derive from the anticipation rather than the actual prize. They are inextricably intertwined with having something to look forward to.

The study digs even deeper and discovers something even more fascinating. Reducing the chance of a reward from 100% to 50%, meaning that the monkey presses the button in vain half of the time, makes the dopamine levels during the expectation phase go through the roof.

Other studies examine a very similar phenomenon within different contexts of our lives, from dating and chasing people who play hard to get, to the haunting feeling of restlessness and unfulfillment despite our achievements.

It's no wonder we experience “the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence syndrome about so many different types of grass, sides, fences and gardens.

Staying positive after obtaining the prize

However, there is a silver lining to this instinctive urge of being in constant search for something better, something more, something that brings us only as much satisfaction as the uncertainty and longing which precede it. It's this inherent drive that is the engine of most, if not all, major breakthroughs that push the boundaries of mankind and transform our future. It lies in the foundation of progress and the refusal to settle for mediocrity.

The key to overcoming the looming post-achievement blues is to see it as an essential part of being human, one that reflects the irony of our very existence.

It's wrapped with bitter-sweet beauty, the same way a sunset wouldn't have the same poetic allure if it never actually set. Many people around the world would happily trade places with those lucky enough to experience this melancholy.

Putting the prize on an impossibly high pedestal inevitably causes a harder fall and come down than fulfillment. A sense of purpose is the strongest weapon against the tricky feeling of emptiness. Your attitude towards your goals is what's going to determine how accomplishing them is going to affect you. Shifting some of your efforts and attention towards your personal growth, rather than solely focusing on external objectives, can give you an inexhaustible source of inspiration and reward.

Ultimately, this can make all the difference to the way you greet not only success, but a failure as well and tremendously influence your general mindset. Perceiving the anticipation and the journey as part of the prize can alleviate the post-achievement blues and give you a dash of positivism. And at the end of the day, a drop of hope is all we need to keep going after future dreams and still appreciate them once they become past conquests.