How do we avoid anxiety about our achievements?
Have you ever felt judged on your career? Ever been asked the “What do you do?” question at a party, and felt someone is less-than-overwhelmed by your answer?
I’ve just taken a few minutes out to watch this great TED video of Alain De Botton deconstructing exactly that – why there is so much anxiety and pressure surrounding our career choices, and what implications that has for our overall happiness.
“Never before have expectations been so high about what human beings can achieve with their life span…”
I think what he has to say about meritocracy – how in developed Western societies we believe it is down to the individual to take responsibility for their own success or failures – is particularly interesting. I agree with him that placing the individual at the centre of their own destiny can be pretty damning if you are not achieving everything you wanted for yourself. His suggestion that this leads to citizens of developed countries being less happy than those in developing countries is something I have observed in Indonesia.
And his final note is wonderful advice:
“What I want to argue for is not that we give up on our idea of success, but that we make sure that they are our own. We should focus in on our ideas and make sure that we own them, that we are truly the authors of our own ambitions.”
Do you agree with Alain that our meritocratic society is an impossibility? Are we setting ourselves up for unhappiness?