Getting into college is competitive. The job market is competitive. Life is competitive, or is it? These days, it seems like character has been replaced by taking every advantage you can get. Don't believe it? Think about Black Friday trampling, a friend of a friend making "the call" for you, and "it's not what you know, it's who." The first time I heard the last phrase was in my middle school career class. That's an absolutely terrific thing to tell a bunch of adolescents in school, "Hey guys, try really hard and all, but basically, you really just need to schmooze your way up the ladder." Well, aren't we all wasting our time?

What's the product of all this? Some of those little awkward middle school students don't care. The others, however, are terrified. They will compete for membership in every honor society, every officer position, every useless little title to put on their resume with swift and all-consuming terror. At first, it's an obsession, and after a semester or so, it's a habit. Our malleable little middle school students end up overcommitted, stressed out and in a tizzy.

It's no way to live, and yet, they were taught it's how to survive. It's how to get the job with the good paycheck to buy all the cool stuff that means you're successful, right? If they can sustain it, maybe. More likely is exhaustion and a pre-midlife crisis. And here they stand, unable to say no to any opportunity. Can you blame them? It's what they were taught.

Fast forward on the VCR of life, and our dear little middle school students have run off to college. (Didn't you know life hasn't made the conversion to DVD yet?) Here they have to manage something new, credit hours. They aren't told how many classes they have to take, there isn't one path to graduation. They chart their own courses. Our grown-up overachievers face the real danger now. They'll try to double major and triple minor, go abroad, work through school, take on leadership positions and internships. They'll forget to live life.

So, here's the intervention. Overachievers and resume floozies, C's get degrees. You will graduate. You will find a job. But know it is in your nature to always have a goal. You will have one after the other until your last day. So, don't forget to enjoy life along the way. It's easy to say, "If I can just get through X, Y and Z, I'll slow down." Stop telling yourself you will, and actually do it. Take it easy on yourself, and definitely do not add that extra class to your schedule.


An Over-Committed, Can't Say No Achiever