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  • Writer's pictureCarly Webb

What Makes You a Success? Balancing Ambition and Wellbeing

In my role as a psychotherapist at Vitus Wellbeing, I often work with highly ambitious young professionals, as well as those who've already ascended to the peak of their careers. Many in the latter group share a similar sentiment – the view from the summit can be somewhat underwhelming.

A woman climbing a mountain on her own, with the aid of a climbing pole. Image is quite dark.

In the early stages of pursuing a successful career, the temptation to put in long hours, sacrifice social plans, and go that extra mile to demonstrate commitment can be strong. While dedication and hard work are virtues, the long-term consequences of such sacrifices concern me. It's not just about missing out on life but potentially missing out on love – not exclusively romantic love, but also the love of friends and family bonds.

If you're one of those perpetual strivers, it's all too easy to tether your self-worth to your professional achievements. However, pause for a moment and ask yourself: Would you choose that illustrious career if you knew it meant sacrificing happiness and connection with others?

For many high-achievers, their work transcends being merely a job; it morphs into an identity. But therein lies a real danger – when you start believing that your worth is entwined with professional accomplishments, you risk losing sight of the fact that work is just a part of life, not the entirety.

The Pitfalls of Overworking

A relentless pursuit of success, while commendable, can blur the line between productivity and burnout. Glamourising your productivity may indicate you're neglecting two vital aspects of your life: your physical and emotional wellbeing. Success, much like a delicate ecosystem, hinges on maintaining balance between giving and taking.

When your work encroaches on every facet of your life, maintaining a clear boundary between your professional and personal lives becomes challenging. This blurred line doesn't just erode the quality of your work; it infiltrates your physical and mental health, creating fault lines in your relationships, which, I truly believe, form the foundations of a satisfying and fulfilling life.

The True Measure of Success

Of course, everyone will have a different view or interpretation of success. The aim of this piece isn't to push my view on you, but to share my thoughts and learnings from my years of client-interactions as a psychotherapist in the UK. For me, true success encompasses more than climbing the corporate ladder or collecting titles, promotions or awards. It encompasses a satisfying personal life, emotional wellbeing, and meaningful connections with others. It's about balancing your professional aspirations with personal contentment, and ensuring you find the time to smile, laugh, to connect and to disconnect as needed.

The Need for Limits

To lead a balanced life, you must create a boundary between work and life. It's important to understand your value isn't exclusively defined by your accomplishments, or by how others see you. Embracing a balanced approach doesn't require diluting your ambition; instead, it can amplify it by ensuring you bring your best to every aspect of life, even those unseen by others. I'm incredibly supportive of those who strive for more, I just want to be sure of the motives behind the determination, and ensure the dedication isn't actually a form of self-harm in disguise.

Nurturing Your Health

Sustainable success relies on a solid foundation of physical and emotional health. Regular exercise, nutritious meals, restorative sleep, and moments of peace aren't distractions from success – they're the pillars that support it. If something isn't quite right with your body - get it checked out. To endure the highs and lows of a high-pressured work environment, emotional resilience is key, too. If you're grieving, take time to grieve. If you're sad, or happy, take time to embrace those feelings, too. Closing off your emotions may feel effective in the short-term, but you'll find them leaking out if not addressed - perhaps through angry outbursts in a team meeting, tearful revelations over work drinks, or stomach upsets throughout the working day.

Cultivating and Treasuring Relationships

Relationships add value and meaning to life's experiences. Neglecting these connections in the pursuit of professional triumphs can result in a very lonely victory. For me, real success involves nurturing the relationships that bring joy, support, and love into your life, whether they're with friends, family members, a partner or colleagues. After a gruelling ascent to the mountaintop, no one wishes to stand alone to gaze upon the view.

A couple holding hands by their little fingers, the woman is wearing an engagement ring

The Skill of Achieving Sustainable Success

If you're seeking a fulfilling life, success is rarely a solo pursuit. It's a collaborative endeavour where work, pleasure, and love intermingle. The delicate skill of balancing ambition with wellbeing is the key to enduring success and a profound sense of tranquillity and contentedness. Keep in mind that your value isn't confined to your job title or résumé; it's unearthed in the richness of a life well-lived.

Carly Webb

Vitus Wellbeing

Carly Webb is a qualified psychotherapist for adults and adolescents and founder of Vitus Wellbeing, a specialist private mental health clinic in London.

Vitus Wellbeing supports children, adolescents, adults and families with their mental health and relationships. Our specialist team offer child and adult psychotherapy and parent coaching, both in person in Fulham, London, and online. Our practitioners are highly qualified and experienced, each with their own specialisms and approach. For more information or support, please contact us.

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