When Your Ambition Becomes Too Much

“Your 20s are for building,” that’s the motto most of us live by.

We wake up early and stay up late, guzzling coffee and Red Bull like water, tending to our 9-5s, 5-9s, side hustles, and passion projects. We simultaneously balance brunch dates and coffee dates because consistent networking is a must. We stay in tune with the latest in domestic and foreign affairs because we wear our social and political awareness like a badge of honor.

We work overtime, often for free. We pay our dues, as the older generations insist. We read. We write. We study. We go above and beyond what’s truly required in life, while still making it on time to every function. And we live for the stress because that’s what we’re taught successful people do.

I think back to my high school and college days. Often my friends and I would say, “I’m not nervous at all for this test. I must not have studied hard enough.” How backwards is that? Why do we equate peace of mind with a lack of ambition?

Maybe it’s because we’re the “entrepreneurial” generation, unsatisfied with the status quo. Maybe it’s because older generations call us lazy, and we’re hell-bent on proving them wrong. Maybe it’s our own inability to slow down and trust the process, despite how often those self-help books we love so much tell us to.

We can all agree that if you want to go further in life than the average person, you must do things the average person isn’t willing to do. But when your ambition becomes unhealthy, and your pro-activeness becomes painful, it’s time to step back and decide what’s really important in life: sanity or success? And that’s problem. We feel we have to choose. If we relax, we’re not hustling hard enough. If we hustle hard, we’re not enjoying life. Finding the balance is nearly impossible.

Sometimes you take on more than you can handle. You want to help others, but you’re too generous with your time. You get so excited about a particular thing that you have no choice but to add it to your ever-growing list of projects. You falsely assure yourself you have it all under control.

Some of us fall into the “30 Under 30” hype, working desperately to make it onto somebody’s list, hoping to meet a superficial life deadline we’ve created for ourselves. Even when our mentors tell us, “You have time,” in the back of our minds, we don’t believe them. We hate complacency. We hate feeling comfortable. We say we trust the process, yet continue to rush it.

While juggling multiple aspects of life is apart of adulthood, we must recognize the difference between what’s actually required and what is only required because we’ve convinced ourselves it is. It’s okay to take breaks. It’s okay to put things down and pick them back up when we’re actually ready. We’re humans, not robots, and we need to give ourselves the space and grace to act like it.

Ambition, in itself, is not a bad thing. Our ambition fuels us to create the lives we want to live, achieve our biggest goals, and accomplish what we work so hard for each day. But if it’s costing us our sanity, peace of mind, and ability to enjoy the beauty of life as is, it costs too much. Don’t work yourself into an early grave. Take that much-needed break. Sleep in a little longer this weekend. Stop saying yes to things you know you don’t have time for. Stop saying yes to things you hate. Eliminate what doesn’t serve you. Re-calibrate. Re-charge. Breathe.

Your ambition will always be right there when you need it.

 

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Victoria Jackson
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