‘What would you say was your greatest achievement?’ an interviewer asked.
My mind involuntarily scanned through my memories for moments of colossal success, moments filled with sweeping praises, and ones with material acquisitions before weighing their worth and placing them in order so that I could easily pinpoint ‘Number 1’ and say out the words I hope would earn a “Wow!”.
Have you ever noticed how our minds are wired to think of just wealth and recognition as achievements?
If you ask a child what he or she wants to be when they grow up, their responses might be more idealistic than realistic, or so us adults think. Some children dream of becoming astronauts while others might want to grow up to be like the friendly-neighborhood superhero Spider-Man. As skeptical as we are, we would much rather accept the first answer with a strong sense of doubt and laugh at the second shortly before telling our children Spider-Man doesn’t exist in the real world.
Children are not very articulate. But if you pay close attention, you might notice that their aspirations are synonymous with ‘being happy’. Spider-Man is obviously not real, but the very idea of him is. Peter Parker is an altruistic individual who wants to make his city a better place for everyone, and in doing so, he achieves happiness, a state of mind that is elusive to many of us. In a way, by rejecting our children’s dream, we might be crushing their chance at happiness.
We teach our children society’s standards and shape their definitions of ‘success’ and ‘failure’. Society deems big houses, fancy cars, designer clothes, and high-paying jobs to be markers of success that will eventually lead to happiness. A person not attempting to achieve any of these is labeled a failure.
But some of us become trapped on the road to success, which sometimes turns out to be an endless ring road. Nothing suffices. We jump from one want to another just to stay on top of the game and be better than everyone around us. But how many of us are truly happy? If anything, the need for more is a constant burden.
I wish to see a reality where when asked the question “What do you want to be?”, we would answer with “happy” and truly mean it. Perhaps then, happiness would not just be the elusive butterfly we see in the meadows. Perhaps, we might finally be able to catch it.