Have a six figure income by 25 years old? Nobody cares.
Paid off your student loans within 24 months of graduation? Nobody cares.
Rise the rank of partner in short order at your firm? Nobody cares.
Max out all your retirement accounts and invest additional funds each year? Nobody cares.
Paid off your mortgage by 35? Nobody cares.
Rise to the C-suite by 30? Nobody cares.
My goal is not to belittle peoples’ professional or financial accomplishments, but to make a point that these accomplishments are not the end-all, be-all.
Throughout childhood, children are regularly rewarded for achieving. Get good grades? You are praised by your teachers and parents. Make varsity in your sport? You are praised by your classmates and parents. Do well on the SATs and get into a nice college? You social status rises with the clout of the university you attend, and your parents can’t stop bragging to their friends and coworkers about you.
From childhood through college, there is a direct correlation between achievement and external validation. But once children become adults, this external validation tends to slow down and can even stop.
If you are 24 years old, busting your ass in law school, and are thinking “once I make partner, I’ll have the income and status and life will be good,” you might want to reconsider. That shot of dopamine that we become used to receiving by obtaining professional accomplishments kind of wears off.
As people age, they start worrying about things other than their friends’ or family’s accomplishments. They have kids, budding careers of their own, hobbies that take up a lot of their time, and their own problems. The allure of status begins to fade as other priorities take over.
It’s okay to still strive to achieve – it’s actually good for you. People need progression and mastery. But at some point, we need to become okay with not receiving a pat on the back, and become okay with the fact that our internal validation is enough.