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Is Your Ambition Healthy?

By Alison Stein Wellner

When ambition becomes unhealthy, we often fail to notice. To keep yourself in check, grab a pen and a notebook and ask yourself these questions, suggests Bo Forbes, a Boston-based yoga teacher and psychologist. There are no right or wrong answers; just reflect on what you're going after, and why you're going after it, Forbes advises. If your goal is aligned with your true nature and your principles, you're unlikely to go astray.

When, for example, you answer Forbes's first question: "Do I steal energy or opportunities from others in pursuit of my goals?" The operative word is steal. Obviously, if you're going after something competitive—a job, for instance—and you get it, then someone else will not have the same opportunity. If you land the job by interviewing well and amassing the right credentials, that's not stealing. But if you badmouth your rivals during your interview or hide the job listing from a well—qualified colleague, you may need to think twice about where your ambition is taking you.

Here are other questions to mull over:

  • What am I trying to achieve, and why is it so important to me?
  • What lengths am I willing to go to in order to reach my goal?
  • Do I run over others in my attempts to get ahead? Do I harm or neglect myself or others in trying to reach my goal?
  • Is this goal an honest reflection of my inner values?
  • Does the intensity of my pursuit eclipse everything else?
  • What will happen if I get it? What will happen if I don't?
  • Do I allow myself to pause and savor the realization of a goal before reaching for the next one?
  • Can I appreciate what I do have and what I've achieved?
  • When I realize this goal, what's next?
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