By Sanah Thakur
I have grown tired of skimming through my social media, reading snippets of success stories that all hum to the same symphony – one that has accelerated the speed of success, skipped numerous beats and incorporated multiple tunes in one song. What I mean is – Why is every ‘successful’ individual today rushing to achieve their wildest dreams to find out their brain couldn’t handle it? Why are children learning to ‘become great’, when their mind isn’t even prepared to deal with the ‘not so great’ reality of everyday? And why do we overdose on success pills, with no idea what they are treating?
If you ask any young person today, where they see themselves in 5 years, you’ll get a wish list of skills and jobs, hardly ever in the same category. With opportunities oozing out of every open door, we’ve reached a point of wanting a dream just because others can have it. So, by the time we’re 30, we’ve been following too many ideals, mastering all skills and reaching no clarity of what enjoyment one truly wants from their life. “In the rush of chasing my goals, I neglected by mental health and only when it was detrimental to further success, did I decide to change my life and pursue true happiness. I am what I am because of this awareness and change.” This is a fictitious life story I just created, yet it sounds ridiculously familiar, doesn’t it? Don’t you think it’s time we tweaked this story? Maybe we start focusing on achieving mental strength and growth and then worrying about exterior goals. Maybe we should be focusing on prevention rather than cures?
The sophisticated human brain as we know it, has only been around for one fourth of the time we have spent on this Earth. Scientists today only know a miniscule amount about the way we think and act, and this is still after studying for nearly all their life. So, if a PhD in neuroscience only helps you to the extent it has, imagine how little us PhD less citizens know. This is probably why we seem shocked to find out that the trophy for completing the race of success is made from glass – which we all know, shatters. The faster we get where we want, the faster we are overwhelmed by it. According to Jean Twenge’s research published by the American Psychological Association, mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety and suicide have increased substantially in young adults (26 years and younger), in the last decade in the United States. Specifically, a 71 percent increase in young adults experiencing serious psychological distress in the previous 30 days, was reported from 2008 to 2017 (from 7.7 percent to 13.1 percent). Another major consequence of early success is the desire for early retirement. It might sound glorious, but according to a Pew survey, young people today have more debt and less income compared to their parents at their age. These statistics prove that while celebrating tangible success has definitely made us work harder and dream bigger, learning to deal with ourselves can prove to be more useful than managing stocks or Instagram followers.
What can we do to ensure that we promote healthy success diets? Firstly, it’s important we redefine ‘success’ from a 500m race to a 5K marathon. Celebrating the achievement of milestones is much more endearing than single trophies – after all, when we complete a marathon, everyone wins a certificate for doing it their own way! Once we accomplish this change, it’s time to respect ourselves as much as we respect our goals and ambitions. Improvement in understanding oneself begins with creating a resume of your weaknesses as detailed as the one of your strengths. Observe your behaviour, write down your patterns. When you see yourself behaving in ways that could sabotage your future success, educate yourself on how to change that. Ask yourself deeper questions:
1- How do I react when I don’t get the things I want?
2- What behaviours is my internal critique always targeting?
3- When I get overwhelmed by work, how does my brain and body react? Does one trigger a reaction in the other? How can I work to strengthen them both?
4- How do I react to unexpected events?
5- Do I understand what my emotions do to me?
“If you have a comprehensive explanation for everything then it decreases uncertainty and anxiety and reduces your cognitive load”, says Jordan Peterson, clinical Psychologist. Define your personality, strengthen yourself and explore the reasons behind everything you do. As Friedrich Nietzsche put it (as quoted by Peterson in his book, 12 Rules for Life), “He whose life has a why can bear almost any how.” The real ‘success’ we should be promoting is the development of strategies to take care of yourself in almost every situation, expected or unexpected. Stories we create about our lives should be evaluated on lessons learnt well and lessons yet to be learnt. Success can’t be achieved by overdoses, but by the consistent treatment of ALL symptoms noticed at ALL times.
* The author can be contacted on Instagram @sincerelysanah
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