It’s an accepted myth that people can either be laid-back and fun-friendly or ambitious, driven and out for themselves. We tend to see the world in binaries such as these, even if they’re deeply unfair to those who take a hard line on either.
In this article, we’ll move into the center ground of this apparent dichotomy, showing you the various ways in which you can lead a vibrant life with ambition and fun driving you forwards in your career as well as in your social circle.
At the outset of this piece, it’s worth thinking through your priorities. Everyone has different priorities based on what makes them happy and content, and these tend to roughly dictate what we tend to do in our spare time.
If you are incredibly motivated to have a family and raise children, it’s more likely that you will be happy to sacrifice other parts of your life for that end. Here is a list of major life priorities (in no particular order) that you can consider ordering yourself:
- Family and having children
- Friends and developing close relationships
- Owning a home and owning other assets
- Being successful in your career
- Living the lifestyle that you wish to lead
- Learning throughout your life
- Vacationing frequently and having lots of time off
Just reading those, you’ll have an idea of where you stand on each of the, as well as how they overlap. It’s not necessarily that easy to vacation all the time if you’re also looking to have a family and close friends.
Getting your priorities straight will help you to decide where you should set your ambition, and where you’ll find your fun for the rest of your life.
Now that you’re familiar with what’s most important to you – if you weren’t already, that is – it’s time to consider how much you want these things. Some of them don’t just fall into your lap, of course.
You cannot simply magic up your life partner and a happy, rosy-cheeked set of children. They come with time, luck, and experimentation in relationships.
Ambitious goals tend to be around those that you can actively work for – such as owning your own home, starting your own business, or reaching the top of your profession.
Now is the time to overturn one important myth: the ambition to be the very best does not need to eclipse everything else in your life.
Far from it, ambition can actually be the driving force that compels you to make as much of your free time as possible. Making smaller goals and objectives that’ll pave the way towards your lifter goal will also help you keep sight of the big picture while also focusing on the immediate road ahead.
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»Developing Towards Goals
Whatever goals that you’ve set for yourself, it’s certainly the case that you’ll need to strive towards them. Remember, though, that this doesn’t mean you’ll have to sacrifice time with friends and family. You just need to find some smart ways in which to balance your work with your life.
The following section of this article is all about finding those shortcuts and those ways in which you can actually make time for your lifestyle and your leisure moments while also striving towards a successful career.
»Learning in Your Own Time
This is a big one. Many successful individuals feel that they need to study and learn in order to boost their chances of success. This is a smart impulse, and sometimes it’s entirely necessary.
There are some jobs that simply do not reward people with promotions if they’ve failed to land a degree, a master’s degree, or a doctorate, for instance.
These can take time to study and that time can subtract from your social life. It doesn’t have to, though. Here are ways to study that won’t mean changing your whole lifestyle:
- Try to find online courses, which will mean you can study in your own time and at your own pace
- Find night classes local to your home which you can attend directly after work, once a week
- Encourage your friends or colleagues onto weekend courses, making the learning social
- Compartmentalize your time, so that you are only ever working on your studies when there is little chance to socialize or have fun – like when it’s raining outside
As well as the above, you can also make use of learning to really add a booster pack to your entire career. For instance, if you’re a qualified nurse who’s looking to take the next leap in your career, you’ll likely want to get back to studying.
Achieve your DNP online instead of through lengthy and expensive in-person courses, bending it around your lifestyle, in order to make that career progress without making huge sacrifices elsewhere.
»Learning to Say “No”
Some people are convinced that the longer they stay in the office, the more likely they are to make an impression on senior managers. After all, the more time you’re sacrificing for the company and the team, the more committed you are to your job – right?
That’s not necessarily the case. If you can finish your work faster than your colleagues, and you’re promptly out of the door when your shift is over, you will look organized and calm.
Be sure to share with your seniors how much work you’re completing in order to show that you’re not lazy – you’re efficient.
Meanwhile, being in the office for 10 or 12 hours in a day isn’t healthy, and can lead to burnout and mental health issues. Nor is it productive: your brain simply cannot work at the same pace for such a long period of time.
Sometimes, if you’re about to head out of the door and a few works land off your desk, you should just say “no”. That’s the case for the weekend email or the favor asked by a colleague when you’re just grabbing your coat to head out to dinner with friends. Draw red lines and try never to cross them, however ambitious you might be.
»Involving Friends in Your Plans
Whether or not your friends are as ambitious as you, it’s important for them to know where your thinking is situated at any given time. They’re interested in your happiness and your wellbeing, but they have a right to know why they haven’t seen you for a couple of weeks and why you cannot make time for them in busy periods.
It’s not enough to just say “work is crazy at the moment” – try to explain why it is busy, and how long that busy period is likely to last. It’s only by sharing a little more than your friends will understand why you’re sometimes unable to join them for drinks.
Other plans could actually actively involve your friends. Above we mentioned the option to get them involved in your studies. If you’re keen to learn German, for instance, you may well have a friend who would find that fun to do with you.
If you’re going it alone in business, even setting up a firm on your own, you should also consider what friends or family could bring to the table – again, giving you a little fun while you’re also working.
»The Right Career
Then there’s the sense in which those in the right career don’t necessarily need to find fun outside of it. A career is a passion and often consumes more time than you spend with your partner, your family, and your friends combined.
So it’s something that you have a right to enjoy, whether it’s paid the minimum wage or a super-high salary. When it comes to ambition and fun, they are not opposed to the best jobs that suit you – they actually come together as one, compelling you to work harder because you enjoy the role so much.
It’s worth pointing out that some people are lucky to find their calling right away, and others only find it several years into their careers. Some don’t feel that they have a calling and instead find jobs that they feel are tolerable to them – allowing them to spend as much time in leisure activities as possible while earning enough money to survive.
This comes back to priorities, but it’s important to reflect on your career at regular intervals to see if you’ve learned anything – including which roles might be better suited to you.
»Making Special Time
When you’re working hard for a number of days or weeks in a row, the metaphorical blinders slip over your eyes and it’s difficult to focus on anything else.
That drive is something that stems from the right career and the right project, but it’s also an obsession that can eclipse everything else that’s meaningful to you, including the time off and relaxation that you actually need in order to perform your job to the best of your abilities.
So, even though it’s difficult, it’s well worth making the effort to make special time to spend with your partner, your friends, or your family. It’s true, you might be tired from work – but just tell them and be comfortable being in their company.
This time you spend with others outside of work is incredibly important, even if you’re really engaged in the project you’re working on. It helps maintain that other you: the one that laughs, care-free, in the company of those they love.
Developing a positive attitude can take years, and it’s something that’s difficult to maintain through thick and thin. In fact, your attitude will fluctuate throughout your life as you feel on cloud nine and then down in the dumps due to life events.
There is no hard and fast rule or set of instructions that’ll help you to maintain a positive attitude, but there are things that you can try in order to find the fun in the mundane and the joy in the everyday. Here are a few ideas:
- Build-in rituals to your day that are inspiring, motivating, or downright hilarious
- Always make time to talk on the phone with friends. Voice notes are particularly good pick-me-ups when you’re having a bad day
- Use journaling to note down what went well across the course of your day
- Be ready to use positive self-talk with yourself, giving yourself credit when you’ve nailed a presentation or had a brilliant time with friends
- Know when to treat yourself to an indulgence and when you should abstain and exercise self-discipline
That list is by no means exclusive and comprehensive, but it’ll give you some idea of what you can institute in your life in order to turn any situation into an opportunity for fun.
»Counseling and Advice
If you’re struggling to find the union between fun and ambition, you’re not alone. There are millions of people out there who have plenty of fun but don’t really know where their lives are headed.
On the other end of the spectrum, there are those who are so ambitious that they feel that their periods of fun are far too fleeting – and they don’t know how to change that.
This is a common cause for concern and something that a little conversation can really help clarify in your mind – either with a qualified professional or with close friends and family.
You’re looking to find a way to maximize your fun while maintaining your ambition, or to maintain your fun while maximizing your ambition. A career counselor can help you find your calling, while a therapist can help you look at the lighter side of life and find what’s truly meaningful to you in your personal life away from work.
These professionals are there to help you find ways to curate a life that you want to lead – one that has equal measures of ambition and fun in both your career and your overall lifestyle.
Many people see ambition and fun as two different sides of a coin, but they’re actually far closer, often overlapping and interacting with one another. This guide is about how to keep yourself ambitious while having fun – ensuring you’re making the most of your life and your career.