The Rat Race To Success
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The Rat Race To Success

We ultimately conform, despite our collective discontent.

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The Rat Race To Success
Pixabay

I’ll preface this article by saying that it contains a great amount of hypocrisy. I am no exception; we’re all caught in this merciless rat race-the race being the intolerably high-pressure environment we’ve created for our children. Our parents and grandparents are absolutely shocked when they hear about the endless demands on our plates. “It wasn't nearly that difficult to get into college in my day!” “Why are you so busy all the time?” “Why are you so stressed?” “You don’t need to do so much; give yourself a break!” “Don’t worry, it takes years to figure out what you want to do with your life.” And we agree. We wholeheartedly agree with our elders when they see us unhinged, sending ourselves into a constant frenzy over a future we’ve yet to confront, and ask us “why?” But we have no answer. We’re sucked into a ruthless cycle with no means to free ourselves from it. We ultimately conform, despite our collective discontent. What keeps us immersed in this unforgiving compulsion to achieve the most, to be the best, to make it to the top quicker than the rest?

I believe we are stuck in a societal paralysis, inhibiting many to resist their individual needs and desires based solely on fear of, not the unknown, but a perceived certainty of sure failure. We know because it is ingrained in us from an early age. If you aren’t able to balance getting good grades with countless other responsibilities, you will fail. If you don’t attend college directly after high school, you will fail. If you don’t get an adequate job or internship in your field of choice directly after college, you will fail. If you enter your young adult life without certainty in your career path, you will fail. And if you decide to change your career path and try something new; you’re too late, and you will fail. How have we become so complacent with our dichotomous definitions of “success” and “failure”? I theorize that our acceptance of this bleak reality stems from this very dichotomy. If we aren’t succeeding, we are failing. And, of course, this raises the question: what defines success? Of course, most of us philosophize that success should be an open-ended concept, allowing for an individual’s interpretation of what fulfillment means to them. However, a minimal amount of people actually put this into practice. A lot of this can be boiled down to basic human nature, specifically, our herd mentality. While the term "herd mentality" is normally used when discussing more trivial things like fashion trends or the use of slang terminology, it is just as applicable when it comes to complying with an "accepted lifestyle."

It drives me crazy. So many lives are essentially dictated by an unspoken "well, everyone else is doing it." It is so deep-rooted in our society that we hardly acknowledge the force that is governing our actions, which ironically, originates solely from our collective selves. It is painfully ironic. We continuously perpetuate a system that we detest and intend to resist. If the majority disagrees with something, how does it continue without change? Despite the initial mental blocks, we can rationalize with ourselves that other options exist in this world, and that inevitable failure is not guaranteed by taking risks. Yet, we remain. I attribute this to the psychological phenomenon of "groupthink." Groupthink is essentially when a group concurs with something because they value coherence and harmony over actual critical thought. The phenomenon is typically recognized is something that occurs in groups within society, not always in society as a whole, since it usually involves some form of group discussion or debate. However, I believe this is at the core of the conformity issue at hand. We don't branch out and take risks because we fear the dysfunction it may cause, for society, for those around us, but especially to our internal peace of mind.

So, then, we must ask ourselves: Which do we value more? An internal sense of stability and comfort, or defying our established instincts in search of pure meaning, and a life of authentic fulfillment? We must all answer this for ourselves.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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