boatIt is the driving force behind pretty much everything: being the best.

You have to be top of your class. You have to be the youngest in your office. You have to have the highest IQ. You have to be able to bench the most. You have to be the first to be promoted. You have to get awards that recognise your achievements in every sport, craft or instrument you’ve ever undertaken. You have to come home with medals that proclaim ‘First’ because the one that says ‘Participation’ may as well read ‘You Suck, Loser’.

There is so much pressure to be the best. The people who are celebrated are never average at what they do. It’s not enough just to do well. Or even, above average. Or to exceed general expectations. If you’re not first, you may as well not have tried.

There are inordinate heaps of pressure on people to not just be good, but to be the best. Silver medals just aren’t enough. There is no recognition for a runner-up. Nobody wants second best.

But… why?

Honestly, if people got out of this mind set, then everyone would be a lot happier. People would stop being so worried and start enjoying their work, their hobbies and their lives.

Maybe you weren’t born with the right natural skills. Maybe you don’t have the right attitude. Maybe you can’t get the right education. Maybe the right people aren’t there to push you in the direction you need to be facing.

Or, perhaps, you’ve just been born into a world with unrealistic expectations of you, and of everyone around you.

Only one person can be the best. That’s 6.9 billion fewer people than there are.

It’s going to be a lot harder for you to be that one person. Given you have the internet, it means you’ve got access to endless adorable cat photos, memes, porn, social media and other distracting digital paraphernalia. The fact is that no matter how dedicated you are, someone out there genuinely hates those things because they get in the way of them honing their craft and skill. While you see them as some light relief after a few hours’ hard work.

Go and look now – at the twelve-year-old doing university level physics, at the five-year-old playing classical music, at the four-year-old playing heavy metal drums.

Think about what you want. Think about what level of achievement will make you happy. Remind yourself that that is your line.

And then stop there.

Focus on performing better than you did last time. As long as you are happy with what you’re doing – as long as you can comfortably, honestly say that you did your best – nothing else matters.

Kirstie Summers,

Daily Zen.