To Achieve, or Not to Achieve
by Nicole Richards


“I want it all,” said Cameron Diaz in the June 2008 issue of InStyle magazine. The quote was blown up, covering an entire page. Inspired, I promptly clipped this quote and stuck it to my bulletin board.

After I first read it, I wanted to work harder, get more involved, and have more in my life. These desires seemed acceptable at the time. Today the quote still hangs on my board, but when I look at it now I don’t feel inspired, I just feel tired. 

In a word, life is busy. Between classes, clubs, working, going to the gym, keeping up with friends and family, and planning for the future, it’s nearly impossible to find time to simply relax. As the school year ensues, I become increasingly overwhelmed by my schedule. Although I feel as though I should keep up with my various activities, I can’t help but wonder if they are worth all the trouble. 

Does happiness, or fulfillment, come from having “it all,” — a good education, an active social life, an impressive career, a big house filled with nice material items, and a schedule packed with commitments to various groups and organizations? Or is it much simpler than all that? 

As Americans, we have become so caught up in having “it all” that we have forced ourselves to believe this lifestyle is the only way to happiness. We need — I need — to stop and think about what really makes us happy, regardless of what society preaches. 

Perhaps one of the most valuable lessons a teacher has ever taught me addresses this dilemma with a simple story. According to the tale, an American man once traveled to Mexico and met a fisherman. The fisherman lived his life simply; he fished in the morning, sold his fish in the afternoon, and then went home and spent time with his family.

The American man told the fisherman that if he fished longer, he could catch more fish, make more money, expand his business, and eventually retire early. The fisherman asked what he would do once he retired. The American told him simply: he could fish in the morning, sell his fish in the afternoon, and spend most of the day with his family. 

What the American failed to realize is that the fisherman did not need a bigger boat or more money to be happy. His happiness did not rise or fall with his success. Though the fisherman’s ideals seem so foreign in American society where wealth and prestige are so important, perhaps there is something we can learn from this “simple” man. 

I am not saying there is anything wrong with wanting success. The problem is when we lose sight of what really matters to us, we sacrifice our happiness for society’s ideals. In the end, only we — not the editors of Instyle — have to live with our lives. Busy, lonely, relaxing, fast-paced —  it’s up to us to make the choices that impact our lifestyles. 

Can I do it all? Sure. Do I want to do it all? That’s where it gets tricky.