This is graduation and wedding season. This is a good time to address an important subject.
There’s something going on that we ought to talk about. Many members of our society have embraced an “achievement obsession” mentality. Those who haven’t devoted their lives to achieving have often fallen into the “loser” category, some giving up and giving in. You know, they move back home with relatives, are un- or under-employed and have stopped looking for work.
But these individuals need to be viewed as part of the continuum.
We’re achievement-mad and the interesting part about all this striving is that once the initial goal is reached, Achievement Strivers find another goal to go after. They then dismiss the first achievement–jobs, careers, degrees–as no big deal. We are not happy with raising two children “successfully”, whatever that means. Now the remarkable families have four, six or eight children. Somehow, we’ve come to the belief that more is better. Always.
In the last year, I’ve seen a client who having earned a Ph.D. and a position teaching at a respected college talked of striving toward a degree in law. Not because the individual yearned to be a lawyer. I have another client who is a respected and successful anesthesiologist. He wants to be a successful farmer.
Now, it doesn’t seem like I’m the best person to talk about this… I have earned a Ph.D. myself and now plus therapy, I write both fiction and non-fiction–striving for success in a new field. I’m also married to a man who has his Ph.D., and have one daughter with her Ph.D. who is now earning licensure as a psychologist. My other daughter is finishing her residency in emergency room medicine. Externally, we have achieved a ton.
Think of me as examining this phenomena from the inside. I’m not shooting success down in a “sour grapes” way, I’m just saying that human happiness is way more complicated than how much you make or how easily you earn a job. Pretty much every parent I’ve ever talked to has said they don’t care so much what their kids do, as long as they’re happy.
I think while we’re so busy encouraging our kids to take college-credit-achieving classes in high school and pushing ourselves to work longer and longer hours at our jobs–sometimes returning emails late into the evening–we ought to stop and examine this.
We need to reassess this issue and in doing so, consider two things–you probably suck at noticing, remembering and giving yourself credit for the achievements you have made or for the successes you have earned. You also need to consider whether all the work you do is making you a better, more productive person. Consider the success of schools in Finland.
Through adopting a less-is-better philosophy and allowing kids more recess with less homework, Finland has created a system that is now measured more successful than most of those in the world. http://ow.ly/z5Ya300zF9U Nothing of what they’re doing aligns with the generally-accepted practices to encourage achievement…and yet they are achieving…by embracing down-time.
We may actually be capable of more and more, but we need to give ourselves a break and give ourselves credit for not being as bad as we often tell ourselves.