I have always been fascinated by the people who do too much, perhaps because I feel myself to be one of them. In high school I would rush from classes to my next after-school activity, and then another one, and then another, and then it would be time for homework. Before you know it, it’s 2 a.m. and I have to be up in five hours.
Why did I do this to myself? In part because I was young and foolish and thought I could do it all, and in part because I wanted to do it all. As I get older, this is no longer the case: I’m sure many of you are finding out in your own lives. Now I very much want to say “no” to taking on even more new things, but I say “yes” anyway.
My roommate and I discussed this overachieving, overburdening tendency the other day in the car on the way to Giant Eagle. My roommate suggested that as a whole our generation is overly stimulated, and that’s why we divert ourselves with so many projects. I find this to be plausible thanks to my own study habits: there must be noise or I can’t get anything done. Even when I have something to do that urgently needs doing I find myself taking a break to plant strawberries in my FarmVille (darn you Facebook!).
Another possible reason is that we are just trying to live up to what is expected of us. Think of all the activities you did in high school to get that well-balanced resume and an acceptance to Ohio State. It can be exhausting, though rewarding, and I wonder how many of us get pressured into doing things we don’t want to do just because it would look bad if we did not say “yes.”
I suppose the whole point in thinking about the epidemic of overachievement is that I want to find an answer that will help us realize the things that we have time for and the things that we don’t. I’m not offering an answer, mainly because I don’t have one; I’m just asking you to think about this problem the next time someone asks you to do something you don’t want to do. Why not go ahead and say “no,” what do you have to lose?