Societal Expectations And Personal Fulfillment

Societal Expectations And Personal Fulfillment

From an early age, we're told to strive for success, wealth, and status, often at the cost of our personal fulfillment. 

Just look at the recent wave of burnout experienced by white-collar workers worldwide. Despite being more connected than ever, our obsession with productivity has left us feeling overworked and unfulfilled. While society tells us that success lies in the number of hours worked or promotions earned, it is crucial that we ask ourselves, “Is this really what I want to be doing with my life?”

Famous artist Andy Warhol had this to say about pursuing your own interests in the face of potential criticism,

"Don't think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it's good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art."

The Stoics teach us to strive to be virtuous and faithful to ourselves. In this way, we can serve our communities, families, and ourselves optimally. In the words of Marcus Aurelius, "The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts," a reminder that we can find fulfillment by focusing on our internal state rather than external factors. This applies even and especially to our flow state, which often arrives naturally when we are doing the things that we love. If our thoughts are bent toward the ears of others, we risk wasting our time, and never pursuing our true passions or interests. 

What use can we be to ourselves or society if we are constantly thinking about how others perceive us?

If you are choosing to pursue a college degree that a family member wants you to have, are you being virtuous? Are you choosing to make the most out of this one life you are given? 

We have all struggled with the balance of responsibility, obligation, and the pursuit of our interests. And in many ways, that is a fundamental and natural part of life. But if you wake up in the middle of the night with a sense of dread about the direction your life is going, it might be time to make a change.