Our achievements – an education with bragging rights, a high-paying job, more status at work – turn out to have an unexpected downside. Scott Schieman, a sociology professor at the University of Toronto has found that achievers experience higher levels of stressors than do slackers. He has found that as you advance toward lofty goals, life stress increases so much that its toxic effects cancel out many positive aspects of success. For example, you get a job where you can set your own hours, but pressure to perform compels you to become a workaholic.
Some of the driven are turning within for help. At Google, harried engineers can take a popular course called “Search Inside Yourself.” Based on advice from experts on the use of mindfulness at work, the seven-week course has a long waiting list. Chade-Meng Tan, the Google engineer who developed the course, has turned it into a book, Search Inside Yourself: the Unexpected path to Achieving Success, Happiness (and World Peace) with a foreword by emotional intelligence expert, Daniel Goleman.
Another new book, The Zen Leader: 10 Ways to Go From Barely Managing to Leading Fearlessly, by Zen master and leadership expert, Ginny Whitelaw, teaches how to use the pressure of a leadership role to “break free and flip to the next stage of development.”
The flip takes many forms, writes Whitelaw, such as transforming situations from the inside out instead of from the outside in. Her ten lessons cover such topics as reframing problems into opportunities, shifting victims into players, and turning pressure into progress.
And then there’s the approach to stress taken by many Gen Ys, or as some wags have dubbed them, Generation Why Bother. Young Americans have become risk-averse and sedentary, living at home after college and hanging on to bad jobs. Economist Paola Giuliano at U.C.L.A.’s Anderson School of Management, found that “young people raised during recessions end up less entrepreneurial and less willing to leave home because they believe luck counts more than effort.”