Career Wellbeing: Balancing Ambition and Happiness

Picture the scene: you have a job that you love, working for a great company. But, this has been your life for the past five years. Surely you need to be more ambitious? Perhaps now is the right time to be moving “onward and upward”?

So, your boss recommends you for a manager role, which you take. But soon you seem to be spending all your time in meetings, and you have so much paperwork that you swear you can hear your desk creaking under the weight. Eventually you find yourself asking, “When did I become so unhappy?”

Seeking progress for the sake of progress can often leave us feeling deflated, and even more unfulfilled than we did in a lower-ranking job. So, where’s the line? Is there a conflict between ambition and happiness?


For many of us, career success brings genuine happiness. But when this stops being the case, we need to re-evaluate what makes us truly happy. A promotion might bring more money and new challenges, but the trade-off could be that you spend less time at home, or you have to deal with a lot more pressure.

Many people spend their careers – and their lives – pressuring themselves to achieve more in the hope of obtaining the ‘perfect’  jobs. But, what we to focus on is creating more with doing less. Just as money doesn’t buy happiness, a high-powered job won’t always get you job satisfaction.

What Drives Us to be Ambitious?

Before we contemplate a big career move, it’s important to assess who is motivating us to move on. Often, we are our own worst critic. All it takes is that nagging feeling of self-doubt that we aren’t doing enough, and we begin to push ourselves to achieve more. But this can leave us feeling drained and disappointed if we don’t reach the goals that we set for ourselves.

Self-criticism is neither a healthy nor a productive method of career advancement. And those of us who are prone to it will likely benefit from a change of mindset (as opposed to a change of job) if we want to achieve real job satisfaction.

Alternatively, some people feel pressured to strive for bigger and better things because they fear that their peers will view them as lazy, lacking drive or enthusiasm. But, it’s important to remember that what’s right for others, isn’t always what’s right for us.

We shouldn’t rely on the fulfillment of the expected to be happy. That is to say, we shouldn’t be driven to achieve what others expect of us. Instead, we need to recognize where and when we are truly satisfied with our work.

It’s a Balancing Act

Working parents are a perfect example of well-balanced ambition. Many parents are expected to “make up for borrowed time” after returning from maternity or paternity leave. Instead, plenty of parents will strike a careful balance between their home and work lives. They will put less pressure on themselves to constantly achieve and, instead, set themselves realistic goals over a longer period of time.

They understand that in order to pursue their own family ambitions, it may take longer to reach their career goals. In this sense, it may be worth letting career ambition take a back seat to happiness. This doesn’t mean that working parents are no longer ambitious in their jobs. Rather, they work out how to reach their full career potential without making themselves miserable in the process.

Work to Live or Live to Work?

By remembering that there is more to life than work, we can alleviate some of the pressure that we, and others, put on ourselves to achieve.

That said, we should never underestimate the power of ambition. It’s an invaluable source of motivation, and it can help us to accomplish the goals that matter most to us. Nonetheless, we should beware the dangers of being over-ambitious. This can force you into a job that you don’t really want, and may greatly damage your home life. The ability to recognize what does and doesn’t make you happy can be the difference between under- and over-stretching yourself. So, in short, be careful what you wish for.

Have you ever experienced the negative impact of over-ambition? Or maybe you’ve felt pushed to take a promotion you didn’t really want?

Here are some tips on how to balance ambition and happiness in a healthy way:

Rediscover Your Mission

It can be easy to become so unshakably transfixed on achieving professional objectives such as banking a certain salary or earning a prestigious job title that your original purpose is forgotten. Mired in busywork and the daily ins and outs of your duties, you may lose sight of the bigger “why” that drives you. Without a sense of purpose, you climb the ladder success with profound emptiness.

When this happens, dedicate intentional time to re-orient back to your mission. Take a day or two to refocus. You don’t have to travel anywhere. You can simulate a professional mini-retreat by asking yourself big questions like “What would I be doing if money wasn’t a problem?” or “When do I feel most alive?”

Through this internal exploration, you may come to realize is what you want more than a promotion or raise is the opportunity to make a meaningful impact, lead a team or simply feel more validated and appreciated at work.

Value The Process Over The End Result

In study after study, social scientists have found that external rewards and traditional financial incentives don’t improve employee performance. They may actually backfire, making it difficult for people to come up with creative solutions.

Instead, research shows high achievement is the result of intrinsic drivers–that is, a desire to do something for inherent interests, self-fulfillment or enjoyment. Motivation increases when people have the desire to perfect their craft. Successful people enjoy the learning process and don’t mind when it continues beyond an expected time frame. They relish in the journey to mastery. They focus on the happiness cultivated along the path to a particular goal, not necessarily a material outcome.

Try savoring how satisfying closing a huge sale feels, how deeply loved and seen you feel when family take note of your accomplishments or appreciate the increased recognition your company is receiving in the industry.

Commit to a System

Setting a big, hairy audacious goal–like publishing a book or launching a startup–can be a fantastic catalyst for change, but it’s not enough. You must commit to a process of taking action on a consistent basis.

Start with the question, “What could I do daily that would guarantee a result and move me forward?” to design your habit system. If you’re an aspiring author, create a weekly writing schedule. If you’re an entrepreneur, devise standard operating procedures to streamline your efforts. Whatever it is, it has to be an action you can sustain over time.

Recognize That Success Is Fluid

Understand that metrics of success—whether related to career, fitness, love or whatever else—are fluid and dynamic. There is always a higher rung in the ladder and over time your targets change. The ideal career when you’re in your 20s may be a poor work-life fit by the time you turn 35.

Instead of prescribing to career milestones society dictates you should have reached by a certain age or salary bracket, keep your options open, define success on your own terms and embrace the many opportunities you encounter on along the way.

Rather than work to attain a “cure-all” end goal, it’s important to view life as a succession of practices that build an imperfect yet wonderful big picture. Greatness comes from years grit, effort and many stumbles along the way.

Need some help finding the balance? We have a fantastic Resilience Coach that can help with just this.


How to Overcome Failure

We Americans love to tell ourselves that failure is not an option. We’re naturally enterprising, optimistic, and persistent. But despite our best efforts, failure is an inevitable part of life. Even if you try hard and give it 110%, you’re bound to experience failure at some point. Maybe it is the failure of a marriage. Perhaps your first small business failed, or you got fired from a job. Heck, it could be out of your control, like losing money in the stock market. Whatever form it takes, it’s an unfortunate reality that we’re all going to fail at something. Since it’s an inevitable part of life, we must learn how to overcome failure.

Practice Self-Compassion


When learning how to overcome failure, is learning self-compassion really the first thing to do? The answer is an unequivocal yes. 

When you experience a failure, you’re probably going to be hard on yourself. You might entertain negative thoughts like, “I’m a loser” or “I’m never going to be successful.” But these thoughts serve no useful purpose. They get us thinking in a negative frame of mind, which perpetuates feelings of despair and helplessness. If we let these thoughts fester, they can even alter our self-image and self-esteem.

The key to avoiding this unfortunate outcome is to treat yourself with compassion. This might sound like new-age mumbo-jumbo, but there is real science behind the concept. Researchers found that people who used self-compassion in the face of failure enjoyed better emotional balance than people who did not. Those who used self-compassion also experienced fewer thoughts of self-criticism and didn’t identify themselves as a failure. If you’re still not convinced, consider that those who used self-compassion to face failure were able to learn more from their experience.

Think of it this way: if you become convinced that you’re a failure, you will probably have a hard time motivating yourself. You may end up accepting defeat or suffering from learned helplessness. Learned helplessness is not a beneficial outcome in terms of personal growth. On the other hand, if you acknowledge that you have failed but differentiate your failure from your identity, you are more likely to learn and grow.

How do you practice self-compassion? 

There are three basic concepts to master. First, you must identify and accept your true emotions. It’s okay to feel angry, afraid, embarrassed, or however you feel. Identify your emotion and engage with it. You can even say it aloud: “I’m angry!”

The second concept to master is that you’re not alone. Human beings are prone to various failure modes, and it happens to all of us eventually. It’s easy to feel isolated, alone, or ashamed after a failure. Remembering that most people will fail at something and that failure is a normal part of life can help put your situation in perspective.

Finally, imagine how you would talk to a friend who failed. Would you berate them for being a stupid failure and tell them to try harder because failure is not an option? Probably not, no. You would probably tell your friend that people fail all the time, and that they’ll learn and grow from it, and that you’ve got their back. So why not tell yourself the same thing?

4 Practical Tips on Overcoming Failure 

Build Resilience

Resilience is our ability to adapt to changing circumstances such as failure. Rather than internalizing failure and giving up, a resilient person accepts what happened, learns from it, and moves along. So how can you build up your resilience?

The first element of resiliency is learning to view hardships as challenges, not eternal circumstances. A failure can be challenging, no doubt. But even the most crushing defeat is not going to linger forever. You might be enduring hard times right now, but eventually, the winds will change, and things will start looking up — or at least stop actively crumbling around you.

The next critical element of resiliency is commitment. Resilient people find internal motivation to continue pushing on. While it might be easy to mope in bed and hide from our failure under the covers, the resilient person recognizes that this behavior is counterproductive. Instead, they commit to their idea. Sure, this used bookstore and tea lounge failed. But that doesn’t mean every used bookstore and tea lounge will fail. If you believe in what you’re doing, you’ll commit to the idea and be persistent in pursuing it.

Finally, resilient people have an internal locus of control. In other words, they attribute their successes and failures primarily to their efforts. This tends to be motivating, as the logical conclusion is that you should put in a lot of effort to succeed. People with an external locus of control view themselves more as being subject to the forces of fate and luck, which can lend itself to defeatist thinking and anxiety.

Develop Healthy Habits

One area where failure is not an option is in developing healthy habits. Healthy habits might seem out of place when discussing how to overcome failure. However, healthy habits are a key ingredient in overcoming failure. If you experience a failure and immediately stop exercising, start drinking heavily, and comfort yourself with food, you’re not going to feel any better. Unhealthy coping mechanisms can help you feel better short term. Still, they usually have disastrous long-term effects: failure to cope healthfully with failure is going to set you up for even more failure, and you’ll find yourself in a spiral. We can all agree that this is an undesirable state of affairs.

It’s essential to find a way to continue with healthy habits in the face of failure. One of the most important healthy habits you should develop or maintain when you’re trying to overcome failure is mindfulness. Mindfulness is the practice of being acutely aware of your emotions and thoughts without letting them consume you. In the context of a failure, mindfulness will help you process your feelings of shame, frustration, and disappointment without becoming depressed or embittered.

Exercise is another healthy habit that can help you when you’re trying to overcome a failure. Failure can be a stressful event that causes the release of stress hormones like cortisol. An excellent way to help reduce the damage that these stress hormones cause is by exercising. If you’re feeling really stressed out, hit the gym for a workout and pump your frustrations out on the machines. If you need to relax, take a walk in the park or even consider going for a hike. Channeling your frustration and grief into physical activity can be an excellent strategy for dealing with failure.

Find a Failure Role Model

Usually, when we think of role models, we think of people who we aspire to be like. Why then would we want to find a failure role model? Simply put: failure is a step on the path to success.

Plenty of wildly successful people have experienced significant failures in their life. Consider the case of Steven Spielberg. While today Spielberg’s name is synonymous with big-budget blockbusters and critically acclaimed films alike, he was rejected from the USC’s School of Theater, Film, and Television three times. He eventually attended school at another location, only to drop out to become a director before finishing. 35 years after starting his degree, Spielberg returned to school in 2002 to finally complete his work and earn his BA.

Still not convinced? Think about Oprah Winfrey. Although she is now worth billions and adored by millions of fans thanks to her popular talk show and media empire, Winfrey was actually fired from her first TV job as one of the 6 pm news anchors for Baltimore’s WJZ-TV.

Finding a failure role model in people like Steven Spielberg or Oprah Winfrey can help you better understand how to overcome failure. You might be facing hard times right now, but with persistence and dedication, you can still find your way to success. Instead of fixating on the idea that failure is not an option, accept it and find ways to continue despite it.

The Final Step: Moving On

The last stop on our journey of learning how to overcome failure is moving on. When you fail, it’s okay to grieve, mourn, or even mope about what happened. Expressing genuine feelings is actually healthy! However, hanging on to those feelings consumes mental energy and takes up psychological bandwidth that could be focused on developing a successful enterprise out of the ruins.

Throughout life you will have challenges, strong emotions, and obstacles that seem insurmountable. But a rational approach can help you to navigate a failure. By treating yourself with kindness, looking for causes, and developing resilience, you’re creating a cognitive skill set that will help you in every part of your life. Finding a failure role model enables you to gain historical perspective and learn from people who have gone before you. And developing healthy habits will reward you for the rest of your life. It may seem like failure is the end of the road, but it’s not. It’s just a brief pit stop on your journey. Hang in there, be nice to yourself, and stay positive. You’ll be back on track before you know it.

If you need a little extra help throughout a difficult time, don’t hesitate to reach out to a qualified therapist on our team.


How to Be More Productive at Work in 2022

When thinking of the ways to be more productive, we often jump to larger actions and drastic New Year’s resolutions. But the path to making your day more productive can begin with taking a break – assessing what’s happening so you can truly focus.

We all want to increase productivity at work. Whether you’re running your own business or working for a company, optimizing your time is key. But if we’ve learned one thing from 2021, it’s that burnout is real. The pandemic birthed an emphasis on mental health, making it easier to discuss our self-care needs.

Trends like mindfulness emerged alongside increased virtual meetings, and we juggled home management and childcare with masks and curbside pickups. We put a lot of projects on the back burner.

Now it’s 2022, and we want to return to productivity – but how? By learning from the turbulence of last couple of years, we can create new habits to avoid just being busy and start making real progress on our work.


Stop Trying to Multitask

You’ll notice that many people say that they’re good at multitasking on their resumes.

But, according to the latest scientific research, there’s no such thing as multitasking.

It’s just your poor brain trying to switch between tasks very quickly and juggle them, wasting too much energy in the process.

In reality, it’s virtually impossible to focus on more than one thing at a time. Just like texting while driving is dangerous for your safety, trying to work on multiple tasks simultaneously will hurt your performance and productivity.

Finally, this practice can also be detrimental to your intelligence –  those who multitask frequently have smaller grey matter density in the part of the brain responsible for controlling emotions and decision-making.

So, commit to a single task and focus on it until it’s completed.

Avoid Interruptions 

Did you know that it takes 25 minutes to get back in the zone after a distraction?

And these interruptions happen regardless of whether you work from the office or home – the culprit might be a colleague who constantly needs something or a regular house chore.

However, we should admit that social media is one of the worst productivity killers. All of us tend to grab our smartphones “just to check that notification” and get caught up in a swirl of news, chats, and other non-work-related things.

Some of the things you can do to avoid getting sidetracked include:

  • Make a plan and allow yourself to check your social media as well as email notifications at designated times only.
  • Close the door of your office and let your coworkers know that you’re working on an important task. This will help you establish a habit as they’ll learn that when your door is closed, you don’t want to be disturbed.
  • Wear noise-canceling headphones.
  • Create office hours when you’re working from home and stick to them.

Take Regular Breaks 

Taking a planned break isn’t a distraction.

Our brains aren’t wired to be focused for extended periods of time. That’s why you sometimes find it hard to concentrate after you spend an hour working on a challenging task. It’s the monotony taking its toll on your attention.

It’s best to take a break every 30 to 40 minutes. Although this might sound counterintuitive, this strategy will allow you to decompress, hydrate, and stretch. A 5-minute rest is all it takes to get your creative juices flowing again.

Besides mental relaxation, it’s important to reduce muscle stiffness by doing some simple exercises and take your eyes off your screen thus preventing strain.

After such a break you’ll feel recharged and ready to resume your work.

Ditch Meetings

Unless they’re absolutely necessary or beneficial.

Stats say that an average employee spends 31 hours a month sitting in unproductive meetings (that could have been emails.)

While regular communication, as well as keeping your co-workers posted about the latest developments and important stuff, is essential, it’s crucial to pick the best method to get in touch with them.

Sometimes this can be a meeting if there’s an important issue to be discussed that requires immediate feedback.

In all other situations, opt for stand-up meetings as they tend to be more dynamic and engaging. Besides such an arrangement will also boost group performance and participation.

Another rule for effective meetings says to invite only those who are involved in the project that will be discussed.

If your meetings tend to drag on and on, remember the two-pizza-rule invented by Jeff Bezos: he holds only meetings during which two pizzas will feed the entire team. In other words, if there are too many people, the meeting won’t be productive and it will take longer than necessary.

Last but not least, don’t forget to establish a clear goal for every meeting, and let your co-workers know what’s expected of them. This way everyone will be able to prepare for the meeting properly and contribute to the discussion.

Otherwise, your meetings will be a simple waste of time that will only result in a couple of eye-rolls and muffled yawns.

Automation Is a Must

Don’t refrain from automating every task you can!

Modern automation tools are sophisticated and advanced, which means that you can rely on them without worrying about side effects.

For example, you can make use of programs that can automate your sales email outreach but not at the expense of personalization. Things like this can save hours per week per sales representative in prospecting, and allow them to focus on other high-value tasks.

Other things that you can put on autopilot are social media management, customer support, communications, or booking meetings.

The trick is to assess tasks that require critical thinking and human touch and distinguish them from those simple, repetitive ones that can be easily performed by a smart tool.

Also, it’s a good idea to create an arsenal of useful automation tools that you can use to facilitate certain tasks or pick up the slack.

Learn to Say No

No is one of the most powerful words in the English language, and yet people find it very hard to use it.

But, your life would be much easier if you used this word more often.

The reason why people avoid saying no to accepting more workload, a round of drinks with their colleagues after work, or anything else that gets in the way of their plans is that they think that it’s rude. Another factor is their insecurity and the underlying fear that somebody will hold that refusal against them.

However, while there are some things that you can’t decline, you shouldn’t put yourself in the role of a yes-sayer all the time.

Learning to say no takes time, so here are some tips to help you get going:

  • Practice with your friends and in safe situations.
  • Be direct but polite.
  • Don’t apologize and show that you feel guilty, but if it’s necessary, offer an explanation about why you can’t accept the task or invitation – you’re already too busy, you have a near deadline, or too much work already.
  • Don’t make up fake excuses. Be sincere as the point is to learn to set boundaries.
  • Don’t say “I’ll think about it” if you don’t want or can’t do it. This way you’ll only prolong your stress and anxiety instead of getting this unpleasant situation off your chest.

Set Your Priorities

Don’t postpone important tasks for later during the day.

The odds are that you’ll be tired and less focused then, so it’s best to deal with the most important tasks on your schedule first thing in the morning.

That way you’ll be able to check them off your list, as that will give you a sense of accomplishment. This momentum will carry you forward and allow you to finish other tasks more easily.

Sometimes you have a big and challenging task ahead of you, and your initial impulse is to leave it for later until you’re ready to face it. But, this is a wrong approach, as you’ll be even more reluctant to start working on it.

So, if you’re struggling with procrastination, feeling overwhelmed with your to-do list, and frequently can’t decide what to work on, the solution is to “eat the frog.”

In other words, pick your most difficult task for the day and focus on it. That way you’ll know that the worst thing that could happen is behind you and that you can get on with your day.

Learn to Delegate

Identify tasks that you can delegate to your coworkers or even contractors, and free up your time so that you can focus on really important work.

But there’s no point in transferring a task to somebody else and then spend your time supervising their work.

It’s called micromanaging and it can kill both your and your coworker’s productivity. You won’t be able to do anything else, while they will feel as if they were under a microscope.

That’s why learning to properly delegate can save you a lot of time and energy. The trick is in picking the person you know is skilled enough for the job and trusting them with the task.

It can be difficult at first, but once you let go and see that others are up to the challenge, you’ll feel more relaxed about the entire arrangement and your productivity will significantly improve.

We have an amazing Resilience Coach on our team that can help you get on track for 2022. Reach out to us today to schedule your session