The Achiever Virus

I grew up in the 1990s in a bustling city in India. The country was mostly poor, but everyone, through a few rich friends, media, or travel, knew there was a better life - one where you don't have to worry about the basics and can even indulge in luxuries. Every person aspired and craved for that better life - if not for them, at least for their kids. 

For middle class kids like me, a hopeful but difficult path emerged. If you study hard, get better test scores than everyone else, and get admission to top colleges, you either get a good career or even better, you get to pursue a life abroad. This is the path to not only wealth but also to being respected and liked by your friends, relatives, teachers, and community.

Some of us took this seriously. The achiever virus was etched into our brains - keep working hard and keep progressing - to more prestigious institutions and more lucrative opportunities. We did it, over and over again. And the more we did it, the more the virus multiplied.

We became achievement machines and it worked very well for us. Until it didn't. 

We aced our tests, got into great schools, and then great jobs and richer countries. We enjoy salaries, savings, comforts, and luxuries that our parents never did. We work reasonable hours, in interesting jobs, and with managers and people who treat us well. We can shop freely in grocery stores, eat out in nice restaurants every week, enjoy fancy vacations, and buy independent houses and multiple cars.  We don't have to check our bank balances constantly, worry about paying bills, or figure out how to avoid debtors. We should be grateful, satisfied, and over the moon to enjoy a life that our younger selves could have only dreamed of. 

But happiness isn't the goal of the achiever virus, it is progress. There's always more to achieve - more money, more status, more luxuries, even better life for our kids. 

The virus gets us to a point where we can be happy but never stops there.