ambition can sound like a dirty word in an age Quit smoking quiet and the big resignation. Many Americans have come to realize that a serious mindset can come at the expense of mental health. in October ReportEven the Surgeon General in the United States has named mental health in the workplace a new public health priority in the wake of the pandemic. Research has also linked chasing extrinsic goals, such as strength, to anxiety and depression.
but he Give up your ambition Candid secret to inner peace? not necessarily. Instead, research suggests that the key is to harness your ambition to a goal that serves your well-being.
Richard Ryan, clinical psychologist and pioneer in self-determination theory, a school of thought focused on human motivation. Struggle is only healthy if we “do it in ways that don’t spoil the rest of our lives.”
Ambition is not inherently good or bad for mental health. One famous study in 2012, based on data from hundreds of people who were tracked for seven decades, found that ambition most strongly predicted career success, but was weakly associated with life satisfaction. Ambitious people weren’t significantly happier or unhappy than people who weren’t motivated, explains co-author Tim Judge, now a professor at Ohio State University’s Fisher School of Business.
Your aspirational goal may have a stronger impact on mental health. studies continuously shown That people motivated by “extrinsic” signs of success, such as wealth, status, or popularity, are not as psychologically fulfilled as people fueled by “intrinsic” motivations, such as personal growth, deep relationships, or knowledge. Reaching an external goal may satisfy you for a while, “but it’s not for long,” says Tim Kasser, professor emeritus of psychology at Knox College.
With some practice and introspection, you can retrain your aspiration to feed your mental health rather than damage it. Here are five research-backed ways to do this.
Make your relationships a priority
Ambition can become detrimental when it “crowds out” other important parts of life, Ryan says. “Ambition is stressful,” he says. “If you are going to be successful and ambitious, you have to put a lot into it.” If this motivation comes at the expense of achieving psychological things like strong relationships or independence during your time, it can have a negative impact on mental health.
Focus on the mission, not the rewards
Research indicates You’ll feel more satisfied if you focus on achievement for the sake of achievement – mastering a task, learning something, or making positive change for your clients or community – rather than just striving for the next promotion or pay raise. (some research He even suggests that people who pursue these internal motivators end up achieving more.) “You can have ambition and be intrinsic motivator at the same time,” says Ryan. “You can love your work…but it aligns with the rest of who you are.”
striving to grow
Instead of letting ambition rule your life, you can adoptgrowth mindsetwhich refers to the belief that intelligence is not static and can be enhanced. Judge says it may be better to strive for growth — learning or refining a skill, or developing a trait you admire in others — rather than achieving concrete goals such as a job title or salary .
People naturally have some materialistic tendencies, especially in capitalist societies. But Kasser’s research suggests that suppressing those desires can lead to mental health gains. Mindfulness and gratitude can help. In one studyPeople who meditate daily were more satisfied with their financial situation and had greater well-being. Regular meditations on gratitudeor relationships or death rate It has also been shown to reduce physical, which in turn can improve mental health.
Don’t try to monetize everything
Have you ever lost interest in a beloved hobby after turning it into a side hustle? There is a scientific explanation. decades ago, The researchers found Linking external motivators (such as monetary rewards) to activities that people enjoyed reduced their intrinsic motivation to keep doing them. If psychological satisfaction is your goal, you may be better off without the extra money.
More must-read stories from TIME