More than just a saying, studies have shown that it can really be lonely at the top. Reaching the top often comes with significant personal cost, and staying there probably even more so.
But as a friend recently said to me, “I would rather be lonely at the top than be lonely at the bottom.”
While said in jest, there is an element of truth in it. One can definitely be lonely at the bottom too.
The point is not where you want to be, but rather that there is more to where you are that determines whether you are lonely or not. A study has shown that about half (50%) of our level of happiness is inborn, and 10% is dictated by circumstances. That leaves 40% for us to choose, to influence.
Being on top is fleeting. That’s why the odds are against you if you bet your whole happiness on it.
The other point is that many times being at the bottom or the top doesn’t change a person’s values or character. A mean, small-minded person at the bottom will still be a mean, small-minded person at the top, maybe worse and harming even more people. And a good, generous person at the bottom will likely be a good, generous person at the top, able to do more good for more people.
No one is on top forever, that you can bet on. And that can be good news or bad news, depending on who you ask.