We live in a society that lavishly praises high achievement. After the completion of formal education, many young people enter the job market with an enthusiasm and energy akin to a cannonball being fired off into the sky. The mission objective is clear from the beginning — achieve as much as possible as quickly as possible. Intern at multiple companies, land your dream job, and accumulate a ridiculous amount of gold star material for your resume. The millennial generation is a hungry and ambitious one.
We read books, which claim that our twenties are a vital period for gaining experience and that no time is to be wasted. We observe the LinkedIn profiles of our peers and compare ourselves to one another in terms of success. We strive to be smarter, more professional, and more accomplished. We’re constantly moving forward in attempts to climb the ladder with blinding seed. We want to build Rome in a day.
We’re young so we figure that since we have the energy, we might as well burn the candle at both ends for as long as possible. We are entry level employees with aspirations of being the CEO. We are bloggers who want to be best selling authors and digital media enterprisers overnight. We hear stories of young people starting with nothing and forming billion dollar companies. We’re not content with being mere mortals. We want to be Zuckerberg, Tesla, or Spiegel. We want to be the one to invent the next Snapchat or Facebook. We want it all, and we don’t want to wait.
I look at my own mentality and the mentality of many other young people and what I’ve observed causes me to beg the question: Are we becoming slaves to our own ambition?
I love writing and creating. I would like to be able to say that I’m a successful person not only in my eyes but also in the eyes of others. So I work. I read as many books as I can get my hands on to develop knowledge that will aid me in my mission. I write as much as a possibly can to practice my craft. When I’m not working, I feel guilty. It’s becoming increasingly hard to enjoy my down time because my mind is constantly focused on my goals and my dreams. My case may be extreme in comparison to some but I definitely feel that there are others who can relate to my sentiment. I have all of these ideas and plans that I’m working towards and the sheer weight of my dreams feels like an anvil being placed on top of my shoulders.
This piece is a reminder to myself as well as any of you out there who are driven and motivated to a level that has perhaps become perverse – slow down. Relax; chill out, calm down, it’s not that serious.
Human beings are naturally wired to work, achieve, and accomplish. It is important to dream big and put in the hours required to turn your dreams into reality. Outworking your competitors and grinding it out for insanely high periods of time can potentially help you arrive at your destination ahead of schedule.
But at what cost?
What are the potential downfalls of living an unbalanced life in which work dominates your existence? The stress from an unreasonable amount of pressure you place on your self is one. The loss of stability in your relationships is another. The more you ask yourself these types of questions, the more you realize that maybe your priorities have gone awry.
Best selling author Robert Greene once said, “The fools in life want things fast and easy-money, success, attention.”
The media presents to us a finished product. They show us the glitz and glamour but none of the trial and tribulation. Our perception of the time it takes to reach our desired milestones is distorted. So we race out of the gates like a thoroughbred horse, wanting the world and all of its spoils, thinking that if push ourselves hard enough we will get there faster.
This strategy does work some of the time. Some people do create billion dollar companies in ostensibly short periods of time. Some people may become successful seemingly overnight. But this is the exception, not the rule. The more likely scenario is that whatever you’d like to achieve is going to take some time. Perhaps it will take years, even decades of consistent effort to get what you want. So while it’s important to proceed with maximum effort, it’s also important to have a proper perspective and allow yourself to detach and unplug every once in a while.
Achievement is definitely a vital component to living a fulfilling life, but it’s just a portion of the equation. Your relationships with your friends and family are of upmost importance. You have to take time to enjoy yourself as well. Life can’t be all work and no play. What’s the point of acquiring all of the worldly measures of success if you’re left alone with no one to share them with?
One of our greatest challenges is making sure our lives don’t turn into a revolving door of desire in which we are continually searching for the next thing that will make us happy. How circumstances affect us depends on how we interpret them as they relate to our life. If we lack a “big picture” view, we can easily fall into serial success seeking.
Why? Because when we get what we want, our happiness soon diminishes because we quickly become used to what we acquire. We may not even stop or slow down to enjoy what we’ve got because we instantly seek a new challenge. If we’re not careful we wind up ricocheting back and forth from achieving and acquiring to acquiring and achieving without ever taking time to fully enjoy any of it.
This is a great way to remain miserable for the rest of your life.
Self-reflection is a great way to provide you with insight that can be used to live a healthy life. So ask yourself, “Is what I’m doing going to cause strain or strength in my relationships?” “Is the amount of work I’m doing a magnificent obsession, or a perilous detractor?” “What’s really important?” “What should I be focused on?”
Avoid the extremes. Life is a balancing act. We have to keep everything in our lives in proper perspective. Neglecting any area for too long can lead to disastrous results. Walk the tightrope carefully, and don’t fall off.