If you happen to use Youtube for some minutes, chances are you will come across a self-help video which will compel you into becoming a more financially, materially successful version of yourself. There is nothing wrong with trying to better your life and obtain wealth along the way unless you apply a lot of pressure to yourself for that sole purpose, exhausting what little time you have with your life.
Competition in Modern Life
We are living in the age of advanced capitalism with too many products, choices and competitions. When it comes to the market economy accompanied by capitalism, competition lies at its core. Competition and the invisible hand regulates the market, thereby balancing supply and demand. Competition seems like a desirable force for good until it isn’t.
One thing about competition for competency (i.e. individual’s ability to create a better life in terms of financial, material means and public influence) is that it creates a fear of missing out for people who cannot catch up to the race. Imagine the modern dynamics as a race where each person tries to catch up with others in financial, material means and merits. This sentiment is shared by most youths around the world, consciously or unconsciously. In a sense, the modern dynamics wants people to compete with each other for better phones, better cars, better houses and virtually everything. Modern advertising, pop culture entertainment, social media platforms more or less portray this sort of culture, instilling a fear of missing out and a need to upgrade your lifestyle, albeit unnecessary.
As civilization and technology modernization advance, the layers in the social ladder are seemingly becoming larger, arguably making it harder for upward social mobility breakthroughs. With adequate education, expertise and hard work, people are sure to move up the social ladder. However, for making a breakthrough or a huge leap in the social ladder, the chances are getting slimmer. Even the divide between the rich and the middle class becomes more divergent, let alone the lower social class. There are a lot of dynamics at play for an individual’s competency growth in this modern race rather than a simple work-your-brain-off factor.
Grinding and the fabled Financial Freedom
There is a concept called “financial freedom” which is increasing in popularity. The theory towards financial freedom is that people should work towards a specific financial amount enough for them to live on without working. This is a particularly very interesting concept and it is also very desirable for anyone. However, this more or less brings forth a grinding culture, where people work their brains off 24/7 just so they can have financial freedom at some point in their life.
The concept itself is subjective and each individual has different sets of functions and responsibilities they have to attend to. Moreover, financial freedom is not something everyone can acquire with just grinding. People need to critically analyze themselves, their family situation and the financial, education capital they have. It is important to be self-aware before adopting popular self-help opinion.
More grinding or better well-being?
While striving towards life goals, each person should be aware of their limitations and faults so as to avoid mental exhaustion and burnout from over expectation. It helps to be realistic, breaking through from the illusionary visions built for you by external forces. In the modern world, people who are ahead of the competition mostly have a head start, in the form of financial capital, education, social capital, location advantage or others.
Competition for competency is exhausting and comparing yourself with others is also exhausting. It would be ideal to stay within your means and strive towards realistic milestones, rather than exhausting yourself just to “make it”. Having over expectations and working yourself to the limits will be followed with serious mental, emotional and physical consequences. If you are an aspiring youth wanting to make it in your career life, you might have heard of the Silicon Valley culture notorious for working to the bone marrow.
Continuously grinding without any time for rest or evaluation would be similar to driving your car 24/7 without maintenance or resting its engine. We all know that at some point, the car will break down and a similar thing will also happen to the person. All the tickles of over-working will in the long run become a torrent which will damage mental, physical well-being and a quality of life. Mental health or personal well-being is every bit as important as career life or the savings in the bank.
Quality of life
As of the capability approach by famous Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen, an individual's capability is about having the substantive freedom to conduct any activities they wish to. This approach is first developed to holistically measure human development, but I believe it also resonates with the quality of life.
A better life should also allow more individual freedom for a person, more time for personal activities, rest and healthcare. Approaching quality of life in the perspective of individual’s freedom also breaks people out from the shackles of materialistic measures or the fabled “financial freedom”. Being able to enjoy life and maintain personal well-being is already a privilege for there are millions of people struggling to make ends meet.
"I just want a state of life where I can be happy with what I have. For me, that’s the quality of life.” said an international student from a college in the US.
Breathe a little
The modern rat race towards more affluence is getting more and more fierce as the society advances. The wealth divide will also grow larger. If people set out to follow unrealistic goals, their grind will become endless, with more room for mental exhaustion and mental health problems.
For every ambitious youth brimming with an intense desire for a better life, please take time to enjoy your life, breathe a little and refocus personal wellbeing for life is best lived with love and freedom.