We’re always hearing how important it is to be ambitious and to go after our dreams, and to work hard and make it happen.
I say the same things… and I have a big vision and ambitious goals for myself… and you probably do, too.
But here’s the tricky part…
If you’re so ambitious in the pursuit of making your dreams happen that you lose sight of what’s truly important in your life, then what does that ambition really get you?
I am a Type-A personality by nature. When I was working in corporate many years ago, I constantly worked late to prove that I was good enough in an industry that was mostly dominated by men (financial services). I wanted to prove to myself and everyone else that I was just as good as the guys. So, I worked really, really hard. I was in the office early and worked until late at night. I pushed myself constantly to do more, like getting my Certified Financial Planner designation in 6 months when it normally takes about 2 years.
All those long hours and mountains of pressure I put on myself cost me a lot. I was in my early 30’s and for the first time in my life, I got hit with extremely painful, stress-induced episodes of shingles - something that’s pretty rare for someone that age. Not to mention the other ways my ambition was costing me, like in my relationships.
Trading one miserable job for another
Now leap forward in time to when I launched my own brand. The whole reason I started my own business was to continue to do work I loved, to share my experience and my expertise, and at the same time to make a fantastic income. I wanted to make a real contribution to the world in my own way, but I wanted to have the freedom and flexibility to do the things that are most important for me like being there for my family and playing with my kids when they get home from school, as well as going on vacations whenever I wanted to.
And yet what happened was I became a prisoner of my own ambitions. I essentially recreated that corporate environment I’d been so miserable in as I worked crazy long hours strapped to my desk in my home office. And, worst of all, I was missing those things that were truly important to me - not exactly the kind of life I’d been so excited to have being my own boss.
Can you relate? Do you feel like your entrepreneurial business is turning into a 9-5 job or 9-11 job because you’re working so hard getting your business off the ground?
One decision I deeply regret
One winter that we got snow where I live, which is really, really rare. I was so excited to go outside and play in it, but I had a project with a deadline I’d set for myself and I wanted it to be done. That project had become like a crushing weight on my shoulders because, frankly, I’d bitten off almost more than I could chew. I’d set this almost impossible timeframe for myself in which to complete the project - again, being super ambitious and wanting to rush to the end goal in record time. The intention was good, but the time frame wasn’t sufficient.
If you find that you’re setting yourself up to feel extra pressure and extra stress because you’re giving yourself not enough time to get something done without freaking out about it… that’s what I’d done.
And on that winter day, as I was looking out my office window watching my kids and husband playing in the pristine white snow, my ambition was robbing me of my happiness. Hearing their laughter was like a knife in the heart because I wanted to be out there playing in the snow, too, and I was faced with a tough decision: Do I go play in the snow and say screw it with work or do I finish my project?
The punchline is that I kept working... a decision I deeply regret.
Looking back, I should’ve made another choice, but I was trapped by my thinking: “I should finish this now because if I don’t, I’m going to be a failure, my business will blow up and I’ll never get clients.” And, ultimately, I felt that if I failed in business, then * I * was a failure.
In hindsight, I’d never make the same decision again (that’s the beauty of having hindsight, isn’t it?). The truth of the situation was the my business wouldn’t have gone down the drain if I’d extended my deadline by another day or two. And, even if it had somehow, that certainly doesn’t make me a failure as a person (and the same goes for you).
Please don’t misunderstand. I’m not saying, “Yes, slack off in your business,” or “Don’t take action and go for your dreams.” What I’m advocating here is not losing sight of what’s really important in the heat of acting on your ambitions. Doing so comes at a huge sacrifice to our own happiness, health and well-being. When ambition usurps core values, your work will suck the joy out of your life and negate all the reasons you created your business for in the first place.
Freedom, happiness and doing what matters most
If you’ve already made the leap into being an entrepreneur, which in and of itself is a huge thing, and you’re taking action and you’re doing the things that you need to do to grow your business, that takes a lot of courage. Don’t rob yourself of the freedom and happiness that come from building a business that first and foremost supports the quality of life you want to have so you can do more of what matters most to you NOW.
You can be ambitious and not work 24/7.
You can go after your dreams and make them happen and still have heaven in your life by doing the things that light you up and fulfill your soul.
What it takes is getting the resources you need and putting processes and the systems in place in your business so that you can set ambitious goals for yourself but not have to do all of the work yourself. Delegating, outsourcing and getting help are some of the best moves you could ever make to grow your business while having more freedom to do the important personal stuff, like play with your kids in the snow (or on the beach!).
Share your thoughts
I would love to know what you think about ambition.
Do you think you have to sacrifice a lot in life in order to fulfill your ambitions?
Or should you have a balance between your ambitions and doing what lights you up? Is that really even possible?
Leave your comments below!