“Be content with your lot; one cannot be first in everything.” Aesop
SEL Connection: Students love to be first– the winner of the race or the one with the most friends. And then there’s academics. This “be first” message permeates students’ experiences in school when they learn very quickly that making the honor roll, getting the “A” or being accepted into National Honors Society are all goals worth striving for. Winning makes students feel valued. Society, too, markets the message that being first should be the guiding purpose of most of life’s activities and so the emotional well-being of students is wrapped up intimately inside the expectation that we should excel at all costs.
(1) Claim: Famous Greek storyteller Aesop implores us to fight against this desire to be first. Contentment with what you have, he claims, is a better pathway towards good living. We can’t be first in everything, and so we must accept the fact that other people are superior to us sometimes. Contentment is a sign of mental and emotional health.
(2) Counterclaim: But just because people can’t be first in everything, doesn’t mean they shouldn’t always be trying. Why be content? Shouldn’t we always be striving towards getting better at what we do? It seems like Aesop is telling us to settle for mediocrity. That’s unacceptable. The only way to achieve anything is life is to refuse to accept settling for second-best. The moment that we accept inferior results is the moment we begin our decline.
(3) Essential Question: Is contentment or winning at all costs a more reliable path towards happiness and fulfillment?