The secret to empowered action is learning not to beat yourself up
Strive for more, work even harder, aim to be the best! We live in a society that regularly sends us such messages. Meanwhile, most of us don’t stop to consider whether our goals are possible or whether they would even bring us lasting happiness. Even if we were to win a gold medal at the Olympics, our status as reigning champion would only last a few years and would most likely be accompanied by anxiety about losing in the future. On my first day at Yale, one of the deans proclaimed, “You are not only the elite; you are the elite of the elite,” and I still remember the wave of nausea this comment evoked in me. Success, after all, is a precarious position. While we strive to become infallible and to retain our position at the top, we cannot escape suffering.
This suspicion was confirmed as I observed my fellow classmates progress through freshman year. Each of us had previously been at the top of his or her class in high school. But we now found ourselves as one smart student among many, no longer special and no longer standing out.