Christina Bost-Seaton is the co-author of my book Say Ciao to Chow Mein: Conquering Career Burnout and a third year associate in a New York City firm. She writes frequently for her state bar publications. Recently she sent me her thoughts on the achievement trap and gave me permission to share them with readers. 
Many young adults today are conditioned to achieve because we enjoy the recognition we obtained from our achievements.  Gold foil stars in kindergarten told the other kids how great we were.  Student of the Month assemblies were public recognitions of our achievement, lauded before all our peers, our peer’s parents, and the community via those bumper stickers.  Everyone knew that we were special, just like Mom and Dad said. 
This continued with Honor Roll, Deans List, Magna Cum Laude, acceptance to prestigious professional schools and graduate programs, job offers at white-shoe law firms, investment banks, hospitals, and consulting firms.  Family and friends congratulated us with every achievement. 
The culture of self-esteem taught parents, teachers, friends, and family, to praise achievements.  Like Pavlov’s dogs, we are now conditioned to achieve. 
When we think of achievers in the past, we think of people like Albert Einstein or Benjamin Franklin.  These men worked towards achieving things in areas about which they were passionate.  The achievers we remember today aren’t necessarily the people who had the longest resumes and titles racked up.  Can any of you name the most-titled members of Debretts Peerage in 1780?  Exactly. 
Rather, the achievers who are remembered are those who achieved goals that were interesting and important to them. 
Young adults today are caught in the Achievement Trap.  We find ourselves continuing to have a desire to achieve, but now, the platitudes don’t mean as much.  Achievement, by itself, is a hollow reward. 
You need to figure out what you are passionate about, what interests you, and what you want to spend your time working towards.  Achievements in those areas are far more fulfilling, because they will result in the praise of your biggest critic – yourself. 
Say Ciao to Chow Mein: Conquering Career Burnout