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Womankind 16: Gyrfalcon

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Why are ‘successful’ people often miserable? By that I mean people who have risen to the top of their field, be it in television, the arts, business, and so forth. Having reached the pinnacle of their careers, some frantically pen their memoirs revealing their inner turmoil, angst, loneliness, and frustration. “Oh, I was miserable,” they cry. “I was anxiety-ridden, and in despair”.

A life coach warns on his blog: it’s a lonely road to the top. “Working towards your own aspirations in life can be very lonely”. As you venture on, he warns, you will begin to feel your isolation.

If reaching the top of one’s career is often accompanied by loneliness and isolation, it makes me question whether our modern definition of ‘success’ - that being to toil away for personal gain, for individual reward and self-aggrandisement - is the only goal worth striving for.

Perhaps our understanding of what makes for a ‘successful’ life should be broadened beyond the personal to make way for goals and achievements that bring glory to more than just oneself. While it’s certainly satisfying to excel personally, there is also something magically exhilarating about working with others to accomplish ends that few could achieve alone. Because for those who do strive for the common good - we might include here the environmentalist, the human rights campaigner, the political activist, the feminist, and so on - a life’s achievement could never be a source of misery, but only elation and joy.

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