Health

How to be ambitious without sacrificing your mental health


Onembition can feel like a dirty word in the age of give up quietly and Great resignation. Many Americans have realized that a striving mindset can be costly in terms of mental well-being; in an october report, the US Surgeon General even named workplace mental health a new post-pandemic public health priority. Research also shows a link between the pursuit of extrinsic goals, such as power, with anxiety and depression.

But it’s give up your ambition the complete secret to inner peace? Unnecessary. Instead, research shows, the key is harnessing your ambition to a goal that serves your health.

Richard Ryan, clinical psychologist and pioneer of Self-determination theory, a school of thought that focuses on human motivation. Striving for health is only beneficial if “we do it in ways that don’t ruin the rest of our lives”.

Ambition is inherently neither good nor bad for mental health. A famous 2012 study, based on data from hundreds of people followed over seven decades, found that ambition strongly predicts career success, but is only weakly associated with life satisfaction. Co-author Tim Judge, who is now a professor at Ohio State University’s Fisher College of Business, explains that ambitious people are not happier or happier than those who are not.

Your ambitious goals can have a stronger impact on mental health. Learn has been continuous show that people who are motivated by “external” signs of success, such as wealth, status, or fame, are not as psychologically satisfied as those who are motivated by motives” intrinsic”, such as personal growth, deep relationships, or knowledge. Achieving an external goal in the short term can make you gratifying, “but it’s not long-term,” says Tim Kasser, professor of psychology emeritus at Knox University.

With some practice and introspection, you can retrain your ambition to feed, rather than harm, your mental health. Here are five research-backed ways to do just that.

Prioritize your relationships

Ambition can become harmful when it “overwhelms” other important parts of life, Ryan says. “Ambition is something that takes effort,” he said. “If you want to be successful and have ambition, you have to put a lot into it.” If that motivation comes at the expense of psychologically satisfying things like strong relationships or your time autonomy, it can take a toll on mental health.

Focus on the task, not the reward

Research to show that you’ll feel more fulfilled if you focus on achievement for the sake of achieving it — completing a task, learning something, or making a positive change for your client or community — rather than just Fight for the next promotion or raise. (Some studies even suggests that people who follow these inner motivations will eventually achieve more.) “You can be ambitious and intrinsically motivated at the same time,” says Ryan. “You may love your job…but it harmonizes with the rest of you.”

Striving to develop

Instead of letting ambition rule your life, you can apply “growth mindset, ” Refers to the belief that intelligence is not fixed and can be fostered. Judge says it may be better to strive for growth — learning or honing a skill, or cultivating a trait you admire in others — rather than specific goals like landing a job title. certain job or salary.

Practice Gratitude

Humans naturally have some materialistic tendencies, especially in capitalist societies. But Kasser’s research shows that suppressing those desires can have mental health benefits. Mindfulness and gratitude can help. In a study, people who meditated daily were more satisfied with their financial situation and had better happiness. Reflect often on gratituderelationships, or dead It has also been shown to reduce materialism, which in turn can improve mental health.

Don’t try to make money from everything

Have you ever lost interest in a favorite hobby after turning it into a hustle? There is a scientifically backed explanation. Decades ago, The researchers found that linking extrinsic motivations (such as cash rewards) to activities people enjoy reduces their intrinsic motivation to continue doing them. If psychological satisfaction is your goal, you might be better off without the extra money.

Other must-read stories from TIME


Write letter for Jamie Ducharme at jamie.ducharme@time.com.

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