AMBITION – Keeping Ambition in Check for the Sake of Mental Health

Ambition’ is first known from the 14th century as a noun and 1601 as a verb. It is defined as follows:

“an ardent desire for rank, fame, or power”

“desire to achieve a particular end”

Earlier this week I was thinking about ambition. There were several questions that popped up. Questions such as — What are your ambitions? What gets you going in the morning? What gets you hyped up and excited for life? Whatever ambitions you have, what really matters is the strength of the ambition. Let me explain.

If you don’t have a reason that sits nice and snug in your soul, what ambitions motivate you forward isn’t going to stay powerful for very long. It is going to become a worthless echo in your head whenever you begin doubting whatever it is you are trying to accomplish.

Another angle of ambition I was thinking about was based on the level of how healthy that ambition is for you. I believe that ambition can become overpowering if not careful. Now, don’t get me wrong, I believe that ambition is one of the key ingredients as far as helping you move along in your life and necessary for you to reach your goals.

However, have you ever gotten a picture of what you want your life to look like stuck in your head? Basically, stuck to the point where it might even be counted as borderline obsessive? I have had this happen on multiple occasions and let me tell you, I believe that sometimes ambition of this caliber can hurt rather than help as it slowly erodes your mental health.

Hear me out, mental health is something to strive for each and every day as your brain is an organ just as much as any other organ that you strive to keep healthy every day. Now say you love candy, maybe especially chocolate, (if you don’t care for sugar in this capacity — just image your love for candy and chocolate is out of this world). You allow yourself to have a piece every day. Just allowing you to get that little touch of sweetness and sugar you desire to increase those endorphins. However, what happens if you decide to eat extra, and that sugar overload hits your system? For me, when I eat too much sugar, I can feel a bit sluggish, my stomach gets pretty upset, and the overwhelming sick feeling hits me like a hammer.

This is how I would imagine if too much ambition effects the brain and your personal mindset. Too much ambition sometimes can be stronger than your ability to get whatever you are trying to accomplish done or maybe you physically can keep up with. Perhaps external forces get in the way of your ambition.

Point is, I believe, that if ambition is not kept in check or kept within realistic boundaries, it can create that feeling of a heavy load, guilt, shame, panic, embarrassment, or really any negative feeling. This negativity if not recognized and left unchecked, can spin into something bigger and especially if you know that you are already prone to mental illness such as depression or anxiety.

Too much ambition can be the perfect ingredient to feed impatience, obsession, agitation, or irritation that could get in the way of the important relationships in your life. All in all, I think that ambition can be the perfect fodder for mental illness.

Now as I have said many times, for good mental health, I believe that balance is everything and the same can be said for ambition. Now I know that especially with depression, ambition seems almost non-existent and with anxiety, ambition might seem so overwhelming to the point that it paralyzes you. When you are already struggling with mental illness, any motivation you feel for your ambitions is a blessing because most of the time it is hard to feel anything. But if you are working hard to maintain good mental health, it is important to remember a few things to make sure that your ambition stays in line.

One, make sure that you don’t set too lofty of goals. Be as specific and maybe even as small as possible. You don’t want your ambition for something great to overwhelm you. Also make sure that once you have your goal set, be sure not to overthink about the timeline or your speed. Recognize that things and life take time. You only get 24 hours in a day, so why live your life as if you could get things done if you had 30 hours in a day? Even if you are an energizer bunny, you can only keep up for a short amount of time. Ever hear the saying, “Don’t the burn the candle on both ends?” It’s not sustainable and in my experience, you only end up beating yourself up at the end of the day for the 72 things you didn’t manage to get to.

And lastly, don’t be hard on yourself. Recognize that you are human and that things happen. Remember that too much ambition can be a dangerous thing for good mental health habits. Ambition should be realistic and a pushing factor of moving forward but just like anything else, can be through out of balance with mental illness.

In closing, let ambition push you but don’t let it control you and put you into a tail spin.

--

--

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store