Saturday, April 23, 2016

Is The Pursuit Of More Making You Unhappy? 6 Strategies To Keep Your Ambition Healthy

"We are making ourselves crazy!"  That is what I told my wife, Jessica, today during a serious conversation.  We were actually verbalizing to each other, after several weeks of difficult to understand actions and reactions between the both of us, what made us stressed and unhappy.  It was a relief to determine that our ambition was the root cause of our collective and individual stress.

You see, there is a fine line between being too ambitious in life and causing yourself extra stress.  We all have enough stress as it is, with work and kids, and whatever else triggers anxiety.  But people like you and me, ones who are constantly churning our thoughts around in our minds, looking for the perfect mix of success and wealth, have a hard time with balance.  If ambition for monetary rewards was on one end of a spectrum and complete idleness (meaning contentedness) on the other, you and me would lean more toward the former.  You wouldn't be reading this if you weren't like me, obsessed with exiting the rat race, obsessed with accumulating more assets, obsessed with creating some sort of legacy for your children. 

So where does a healthy case of ambition become an unhealthy one?  The zone is blurry to say the least.  Jessica and I are entrepreneurs, willing to spend money on new ventures.  We become absorbed in the work after work, meaning the work we impose on ourselves once we get home from our day jobs.  We say things like, "We're doing it for the kids," or "It'll be worth it in the end," to justify our robotic behavior.  More often than not we fail, because failure is more typical of an entrepreneur's journey.  When we realize our individual or collective failure, both Jessica and I react in the same way...we get depressed.  It's normal.  Who wouldn't, right?

Living a life knowing where you want to be, but not being able to get there is incredibly disappointing and frustrating.  It causes me, for example, to not appreciate all that I already have.  And I have so many things!  Does this happen to you?  Do you under value the things you already have, and judge yourself by what you want, but don't have yet?  To live with myself, i.e., to both appreciate what I have in my life and not become complacent as a defense mechanism from constant failures, I have devised this list of helpful tips that may be of use to you:

1.  Define exactly what you want.  Don't just say: "I want to make enough money to retire myself from my job."  Instead say: "I will find a way to make an extra $100 dollars a month."  The latter is not as abstract.

2.  Come to terms with the dead horse.  As the saying goes, "There is no sense in beating a dead horse."  Sometimes we overstay our efforts.  We see there is no momentum, no life, and no progress, yet we resolve to not give up to avoid the feeling of failure.  If only we felt no emotion when presented with negative outcomes.

3.  Recognize the signs of unhealthy stress.  Some stress is good.  The type that makes you loose sleep daily, snap at people, or depressed, is clearly not the good kind.

4.  Do Yoga or meditate.  To counter your over-active, stress-causing, ambition, you will need an activity that acts like a sponge and extracts the inner poison from your body, mind, and soul.

5.  Have a venting partner.  I only see my psychiatrist when I am mandated to do so, i.e., when my prescription runs out and I cannot get another one unless I stop by the hospital to chat it up with the Doc.  Having someone who would hear you out more frequently would be very therapeutic and balancing.

6.  Vege out at least once a week.  Have a day where you consciously adopt an, "I don't give a F!*% attitude."  Your kids could be in the backyard eating dirt for lunch and instead of yelling at them and over-reacting, sip some more on your margarita.  If they get dirty and you don't feel like bathing them...don't!  This is your, "Who cares?" day.

Working hard for a better tomorrow is to be commended.  In the pursuit for more, we often become our own worst enemy.  These six strategies should help keep you on track to push forward with your ventures without burning out.  Stay sane my friends!  Thanks!       

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