Sure, I’m as Type A as they come- that coupled with a high need for achievement probably makes me insufferable at times- but, I’ve always been this way. It has to do with my personality and upbringing, and has often made me different from others too. When I step back and look at the younger generations, however, I’m not so sure. It seems that the majority of them are overachievers. They are always stretching to get the highest grades, secure the best jobs, and do everything perfectly. As experience teaches us, however, there is no such thing as being perfect, and I often worry about their expectations.
My oldest daughter has been applying to colleges and I have witnessed that pressure firsthand. It starts with obtaining the best possible ACT and SAT scores, and then moves on to writing the perfect common application essay, and then listing as many achievements as humanly possible. Has she particiapated enough? Too much? Was it in the right things? Is she perfect enough to continue reaching a higher and higher bar? Did she found a company by the time she was 12? Or cure a serious societal problem while attending high school?
And it doesn’t end there either. I teach undergraduate students, and they are still continuing along that same path. They are looking for scores of 100 (not 98 or 99), trying to obtain as many leadership positions as possible, asking for recommendations well in advance (just in case), and already grappling with the competitive nature of securing internships and their first major jobs. They feel like they need to have everything figured out before they’ve even begun.
It’s overwhelming for me, watching it happen. I secretly wish for them to relax and just be young and have fun. It goes by so fast. As parents, we push our children to achieve and try to set them up for success, but I wonder if (collectively) we have pushed them all a little too far.
Being an overachiever is not a bad thing in and of itself, but sacrificing other areas of your life to that end can be problematic. Will the younger generations be completely burnt out by the time they are thirty? Maybe so.
What can we do as parents and role models to prevent that from happening? Modeling proper work-life balance can help. Encouraging activities to let off steam is just as important as promoting activities that set them up for success. At the heart of it, we should be reminding them to take care of themselves (sleep, nutrition, exercise) and to partake in activities that they truly enjoy (and where they can connect with others too). I’m all for being a Type A as long as you can balance that with a little Type B from time to time. Let’s set the example.