“Just because you’re in business, you don’t have to aspire to be in top management. Just because you’re a writer doesn’t mean you have to become a best-selling novelist. Just because you’re a runner doesn’t mean you need to win the Boston Marathon.”
Those words are tough to take. Coming from a generation viewed as “entitled”, I’ve always wanted to climb to the top of whatever it is I’m doing. It’s the classic case of an over achiever but if I’m not the best, or at least one of the best, at what I’m doing, I feel like I’ve failed.
Not only is that delusional, but it’s exhausting! My first two years of college I stressed too often and saw my friends too little. By my junior year I was tired of putting so much energy into getting my 4.0 and acing every exam. Once I started spending more time with my friends, I relaxed a bit and found myself to be much happier. This isn’t to say that I stopped stressing about school or that I didn’t work as hard, it just means I came to terms with the fact that it’s okay if I’m not number 1. It’s just important to be happy.
For some people, happiness does come with being number one. Corporate CEOs, entrepreneurs, marathon winners, whatever it is – those people have decided that they want to put their energy toward being the absolute best in that field. That doesn’t mean their lifestyle choice is any better, or worse, than a woman who works part time, maintains a household, cares for her kids, and spends every Saturday having dinner with her friends and family.
I always thought I wanted to climb to the top in my career and that I wouldn’t stop until I was there. Lately I’ve realized my ambitions are shifting. I don’t want to sacrifice a family to be a hard-working VP. Sometimes I feel like this thinking is just me being lazy and not wanting to work hard enough to get to the top (again, the over achiever talking) but then I remember that, as Amber says, everyone has their own yardstick. Being “better” than everyone else won’t make you any happier.
What are your thoughts on the subject? Is climbing to the top overrated? Have you faced these same mental challenges?