The Connection Between Ambition and Depression
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The Connection Between Ambition and Depression

The Connection Between Ambition and Depression

Sometimes when you strive to accomplish a goal, you set high expectations. You likely even visualize yourself reaching that goal which can help boost your motivation. While it is great to pursue goals and feel motivated, it can become problematic if you are more focused on achieving a goal just for the sole sake of saying you achieved something. Just like when you set your expectations too high, your goal becomes unreasonable, and you risk feeling upset and disappointed.

Many people who chase career success think they won't be happy until they reach their goal, which prevents them from ever feeling happy or satisfied. The truth is, you might not ever be happy or satisfied if you do not learn how to understand that the pursuit of success is just as important as success itself. Happiness and good mental health are the keys to realizing all your ambitions and getting that long-coveted sustainable success. Let's take a look at the relationship between ambition and depression and how you can act to manage your ambition and prevent feelings of depression when striving for success.


When you work hard toward a goal only to miss meeting it, you might feel disappointed. You might even compare yourself to others which further deteriorates your self-esteem, self-worth, and overall wellbeing. Drawing these kinds of comparisons and viewing your efforts as failures can soon lead to depression. Becoming too ambitious to get yourself where you think you need to be can also cause you to neglect what is important, such as health, family, and recovery. It can also lead to isolation, resentment, and relapse.

When you do not adequately deal with stress and keep your ambitions logical and healthy, you will fall further down the hole of anxiety and depression. While it is not always easy to avoid stress, especially when pursuing a career goal, there are many ways that you can manage it and bring focus and logic back into your vision for future successes. Thinking more rationally and realistic about your goals helps you regain control over your life, including your emotions and behaviors.


Research suggests that ambition centers around the attainment of outcomes; however, these same studies reveal that exclusively extrinsic goals sabotage health. Pursing external values such as money, possessions, and social status leads to reduced wellbeing and increased distress. Therefore chasing short-term success or success for the sole purpose of chasing it can sour relationships and plant seeds of regret. Instead of trying to fulfill accomplishments for the sake of fulfilling accomplishments, shift your plans, goals, and resolutions toward an intrinsic orientation. See things in the form of "I," for example, "I want to feel like I am doing good for others" or "I want my life to feel like it has meaning." Constructing goals around how specifically you want to feel at a given time or add value to another's life, or your company can begin to add depth and purpose to your ambition.


Perfectionism is when you set unyielding and unrealistic expectations. While having high standards can help you accomplish great things, perfectionism can feed addiction and make you unhappy. Sometimes you need to see that "good enough" is truly good enough and not a form of settling. Scientifically, when your expectations do not get met, the dopamine activity associated with them drops off. Despite these biochemical convictions that the more you achieve, the happier you will be, perfectionism suggests that when you chase perceived ideals for success, you risk setting unrealistic goals and developing negative habits.

Instead, set achievable goals and embrace surprise if you surpass them. When you exceed expectations, it can even give you a sense of rewards and good energy.


Poor social networks can also create adverse environments. Research shows that the happiest people are those with the strongest connections. Creating and maintaining a network of people who love you and that you can trust helps you to manage your stress. The more you nurture these relationships, the stronger and more profound they become. Take the time to catch up with friends, family, and peers. Attending support meetings and therapy regularly also ensures you are keeping yourself accountable in your recovery. A strong network will bring balance and remind you of all you already have in your life.

You don't need to sacrifice ambition for your mental health, or vice versa. However, to thrive, you need to remember to choose happiness and self-care over your ambition. At START UP RECOVERY, we can help you learn how to use ambition to create a successful and healthier lifestyle. We will help you take a step back from your demanding or unreasonable goals to help you see what becomes imbued with perfectionism and what is not. We, along with a support network of professionals and peers alike, will help you create goals that are reasonable and that reflect your values. With a sunny SoCal location, you will have an incredible amount of inspiration on your side. Our success happens when we help individuals become the happiest, healthiest, and most successful versions of themselves. If you or a loved one struggles to find balance in their life and recovery, then the time to reach out for help is now. Find out more by reaching out to START UP RECOVERY today and call 310-773-3809.

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