How to be ambitious without getting stressed out

By Lisa Evans

There’s this notion in our society today that stress is tied to ambition; that in order to be ambitious, you must also be stressed out. We brag about not having time enough time to get all of our work done, about staying up until 3 a.m. or waking up at 3 a.m. in order to grind it out. The idea being, if you’re not stressed out enough, you’re not ambitious enough. But can you be both ambitious and at peace?

Many highly ambitious people are driven to perform because they have an ingrained fear of failure. While that anxiety and fear can fuel them to work harder and get further ahead in their career, it can also lead to a high degree of stress.

“Highly ambitions people are likely highly energized and motivated to succeed. This energy can come from a place of excitement and fulfillment about what they are accomplishing and how they are serving the world, or it can come from a place of stress and anxiety,” says Executive Coach Cynthia Corsetti.

But Corsetti says stress and ambition don’t have to be mutually exclusive. It is possible to lower your stress while maintaining your ambition. Here are four ways you can maintain your ambition without letting stress take over.

Integrate mindfulness practice into your day

It is possible to experience joy and gratitude for what you have but still be hungry for the goals you want to achieve in the future. Practicing mindfulness techniques, such as keeping a gratitude journal, can help you focus on the now and lower your stress so you can tackle the big things on your plate. “You’re not thinking about what might happen or might not happen, or what if I don’t succeed? Instead, you’ll be focused on the task at hand, mindfully and with intention,” says Corsetti.

Practice living in the present

Ambitious people tend to live for the future. While having a vision and being forward thinking isn’t a bad thing, living for the future all the time can cause increased stress. Spend some time forcing yourself to tune into what’s happening now. Chasing challenges is fun and causes your adrenaline to flow and those feel-good hormones to be released, but all this constant chasing doesn’t allow you to celebrate your successes today, as you’re always looking to check off the next box.

Celebrate small wins

While it’s great to have a big goal that you want to achieve, solely focusing on the top of the mountain can cause undue stress. Taking the time to celebrate the small wins can help to lower your anxiety about the future. “If your goal is to grow your business by 100%, a win might be attending a networking event and connecting with three new individuals who are interested in the work that you do,” says Corsetti.

Have a morning and evening routine

A morning and evening routine can help you to achieve calm. “Routine helps you have predictability, and that reduces stress,” says Corsetti. A morning routine that includes a morning meditation can start your day off on a calm note. A morning exercise routine gets the blood flowing and can help reduce stress. “As little as 10 minutes of movement releases GAVA, a neurotransmitter that allows the brain to feel relaxed,” says Corsetti. Journaling in the morning can help you organize your thoughts and release any pent-up stress.

An evening routine that helps you prepare for the next day, such as laying out your clothes and making your lunch, can help reduce stress the next morning. A calming evening routine may also involve checking your calendar and making a list of your priorities for the next day so you can go to bed knowing you have everything in order. 


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