Balancing Personal And Professional Life: Harnessing Ambition In Careers

Medically reviewed by April Justice, LICSW
Updated March 27, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Pursuing ambitious career goals can be a rewarding and exciting journey. However, ambition may sometimes get out of hand, causing excessive stress and having detrimental effects on other key areas of life. While career aspirations can be crucial, it can also be essential to tend to your personal life and overall well-being.

Learning to harness ambition while preserving your mental and emotional well-being can be advantageous to making positive changes. You can use a few strategies and practices to achieve the sought-after equilibrium between your personal and professional lives, such as setting realistic goals and learning effective time management techniques. With these insights and practical tips, you can gain tools to navigate the challenges that may arise and create a harmonious blend of ambition and personal fulfillment.

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Understanding ambition in careers

As noted by the World Health Organization (WHO), poor working environments—including excessive workloads—pose a risk to mental health. With the lines between personal and professional life becoming increasingly blurred, finding the delicate balance that allows you to chase your ambitions while nurturing your inner self can be crucial.

Ambition refers to the strong desire to accomplish a goal. It can be a driving force to fuel your yearning for growth and achievement in your career. It can push you to dream big, set goals, and take action to reach new heights. As a positive attribute, ambition can propel individuals forward and motivate them to excel. However, it can be crucial to differentiate between healthy and excessive ambition.

What is healthy ambition?

Healthy ambition often stems from a genuine passion for one’s work and a desire to make a positive impact. It can involve setting realistic goals and striving for personal and professional growth to serve your overall well-being. 

What is excessive ambition?

Contrarily, excessive ambition can lead to chronic stress, burnout, strained relationships, and neglect of your personal life. The implications of burnout can be detrimental to your mental and physical health and overall career satisfaction.

How to balance your ambition

Striking the right balance between ambition and personal well-being can require introspection and self-awareness. When you understand your values, priorities, and the potential consequences of unchecked ambition on overall happiness and fulfillment, you can begin to create a framework for healthy ambition in your career. 

You can also establish boundaries that will help prevent ambition from getting out of hand. Taking proactive steps toward realizing your dreams while ensuring you balance ambition can set the stage for improved health, productivity, and career satisfaction.

The benefits of achieving work-life balance

Before looking at strategies for harnessing ambition while maintaining a work-life balance, examining the benefits of achieving such equilibrium may be helpful. Work-life balance is a buzzword and can be a crucial component of your overall well-being. You may encounter several positive outcomes when you achieve a healthy balance between your personal and professional lives. 

Work-life balance can improve your mental and emotional health significantly. You may experience reduced stress levels, increased happiness, and improved physical health by being able to tend to other crucial areas of life besides work—such as sleep, exercise, and healthy eating habits. 

Maintaining a healthy work-life balance can also strengthen relationships. By prioritizing quality time with loved ones and nurturing social connections, you may build stronger bonds and create a support system that sustains you during challenging moments. Additionally, balancing your personal and professional lives may allow you to pursue hobbies, interests, and self-care practices that recharge you.

Getty/Luis Alvarez

Seven strategies for balancing personal and professional life

Exploring practical strategies for harnessing ambition while maintaining harmony between your personal and professional lives may also be helpful. You don’t have to have a certain salary or success to start balancing your life. You can have unlimited access to well-being when you are able to strike a balance between your ambition in your career and your personal goals. 

1. Define your career ambitions and personal goals

To ensure that your career ambitions aren’t unrealistic, you can map out a plan for achieving your career goals in a realistic timeframe while incorporating objectives that consider your personal values and priorities. Your plan can include short-term and long-term goals in various areas of your life to help you stay balanced. 

2. Practice time management

Effective time management can be essential for achieving and maintaining work-life balance. You can allocate ample amounts of time for your career pursuits while dedicating time to yourself, your relationships, and your other interests outside of work. Many time management techniques and tools are available, such as the Pomodoro Technique, time blocking, and the Getting Things Done process, so you may consider trying different methods to find what works best for you. 

3. Establish boundaries

Boundaries are often crucial to achieving balance and preserving your mental health. Establishing clear boundaries between work and personal time may prevent work from encroaching on your personal life. These boundaries can look different for each person but might include limitations around responding to emails at certain times or bringing work home in the evenings.

4. Learn when to say no

Ambitious people may be tempted to accept all the new challenges and opportunities that come their way. While embracing growth and seizing opportunities can be valuable, learning to say no can also be vital for achieving work-life balance. Assess each new request or opportunity according to your goals and priorities. If it doesn't align with your ambitions or disrupts your work-life balance, it can be acceptable to decline politely.

5. Build a supportive network

A supportive network of family, friends, mentors, and colleagues can be invaluable in helping you to achieve and maintain work-life balance in a healthy way. Surrounding yourself with people who lift you up and spending time with those you love can help you find joy, gain perspective, feel supported, and stay motivated. 

6. Practice self-care

Self-care is an often overlooked but essential part of achieving and maintaining balance, and it can support you in avoiding self-criticism. Taking time out of your day to engage in activities that bring you joy, nourish your body, or allow you to relax can restore energy levels, reduce stress, and improve productivity. Self-care can come in many forms, such as meditation, exercise, adequate sleep, healthy eating, and deep breathing. 

7. Find a sense of purpose

Staying connected to your values and maintaining perspective on the bigger picture can also be vital for cultivating balance in your life. When you are connected to energy more significant than yourself, your ambitions can become part of a mission that gives your work and life purpose, meaning, and fulfillment.

Build a work-life balance with professional support

Support options 

Finding a balance between your personal and professional lives may be easier said than done. You may find support in this area by speaking to a therapist. However, if you are experiencing burnout or stress, making time for another commitment, such as therapy, may be challenging. With online therapy through a platform like BetterHelp, you can meet with a therapist wherever you have internet, which can make it easier to fit into busy schedules. 

Talking to an online therapist may help you gain valuable insights and guidance that empower you to achieve meaningful balance in your life. With a licensed therapist, you can discuss underlying concerns, clarify your goals, and develop a plan for achieving harmony between your personal and professional lives. You can choose between phone, video, or live chat sessions and access resources like articles and group sessions through an online platform. 

Various dynamics and challenges can be involved when balancing ambition in your personal and professional life. Research has shown the effectiveness of online therapy for a range of concerns. For instance, a 2023 study published in World Psychiatry found that internet-based cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) can be as effective as in-person CBT for a range of psychiatric and somatic disorders. 


Finding the delicate balance between ambition in careers and personal life is often an ongoing journey requiring self-reflection, conscious decision-making, and a commitment to nurturing your well-being. You can find a meaningful balance between ambition and your personal life with thoughtful intention and a willingness to adjust. 

Developing strategies that work for you, such as goal-setting, boundary-setting, and self-care, can help create a life of balance and fulfillment. Ambition is a powerful force that can propel you to great heights, but it can also be crucial to ensure your journey is sustainable and fulfilling. Consider contacting a therapist online or in your area to learn more about these goals.

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