“The quest for more success and status (for the sake of success and status) often leads to the slow erosion of meaningful relationships” – ME
A perpetually happy, exciting, pain free life. It seems like this is what we all want. There is a catch though… we don’t want to put in the work. There is another catch… we won’t always be happy, life won’t always be exciting, and pain will come and go.
I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit as of late. When reflecting on conversations I’ve had with friends, family, and patients, I recognize most people are trying to reach an idealized life without struggle or pain. This type of life is exulted on social media, TV, from our friend groups, even our family. Scroll for two minutes on Instagram and you’ll no doubt get bombarded with perfectly edited photos of people, homes, and other trinkets.
We want the perfect marriage, the perfect body, the perfect family, the perfect job, the perfect home. We are obsessed with perfect scores on tests, saddened when we are less than perfect. This also leaks over into our expectations of others. We expect others to be perfect, to be without fault, and when a mistake is made we ruthlessly jump to conclusions that they were acting out of malice. We expect perfection of others yet expect others to take us as imperfect. This obsession with perfection also ties into how we view success.
Success and wealth go hand in hand with this perfect life, so society says. Many of us want this success and wealth, however, I’ve observed two things: 1. We want wealth but are envious but also spiteful of those who have it, 2. We expect that if we had wealth, life would be infinitely better and we would be exceedingly more happy. It’s true, that people living in poverty would have a better life with more wealth, and increase in happiness, to a point. It is not true, that massive amounts of wealth lead to a greater and more fulfilling life. There are plenty of people who are wealthy and miserable, routinely logging 60+ hr work weeks and sacrificing everything they care about.
In the past couple years, I’ve interacted with hundreds of business owners and entrepreneurs, and individuals in the workforce who are so focused on building and growing their business, progressing in their career, and working seven days/week for months, sometimes years at a time. This sacrifice of time with family and friends often leads to burnout and the severing of the relationships that they initially got into business for. Many business owners got into business as a way to a better life for them and their family but it turned into an all consuming force that has wreaked or is wreaking havoc on their relationships. I see this all too often with professionals. The quest for more success and status (for the sake of success and status) often leads to the slow erosion of meaningful relationships. If you are this person, stop. Stop and read this paragraph again.
Why are you working so hard? Hard work, embracing struggle, and being persistent is certainly necessary for any type of success in this life, however, the priority should not be these things. Could you accomplish the same if you also maintained healthy relationships with your significant other, friendships, and family? (This question was rhetorical, of course you can). Hard work does not equal smart work. Let’s not be consumed by the struggle and the act of working hard. Let’s prioritize our relationships and the positive impact we can have on others. If we do this, we’ll likely be able to accomplish more than we ever thought possible and to live a life filled with meaning and purpose.
Nathan Kadlecek is a Doctor of Physical Therapy, health nut, powerlifter, and seeks to answer somewhat unanswerable questions.