Listen: stress and ambition do not go hand in hand. There are plenty of highly successful people who are not ambitious and many more ambitious people that are not successful. There are plenty of people who are stressed out that have no ambition and there are plenty of people who are ambitious and stressed.

As a society we need to work out decoupling the connection between ambition and the amount of stress you experience. Here are three ways to begin this process:

Understand your ambition. Be extremely specific. Is it status, money, power, influence?

Look at the best salespeople. They are not usually successful because of their ambition. Their success comes from their ability to articulate and quantify their specific goals. To do this they have to be conscious of the reasons why achieving these goals is really important to them. It’s not enough to say, ‘I want to be successful’ or ‘I want to be wealthy’.

A more specific ambition is to “run a division of a publicly traded company by the age of 40” or “I want to bring in $20 million in assets under management in the next 2 years”. These are specific and can be broken down into smaller milestones and activity. 

Adjust the time horizon. If you’re stressed about your ambition or the goals you’re setting yourself, either the goal is too big or your time horizon is too short.

We tend to be self-critical and high performers. Ambitious professionals tend to expect more than is reasonable in too short a duration of time.  For example, wanting to make partner in 4 years (when the fastest anyone has ever made partner is 6 years at the firm).

Adjust your attitude and lower the stakes. We behave as we believe. It has become a badge of honor to express oneself as busy, stressed or having a lot going on, but we do have a choice in the matter – well, not always how busy or stressful the environment is but in the way we choose to feel about it.

Ask yourself why and what questions.

Why is this so important? What would happen if it didn’t go well? What would happen then? Usually, the answers to this chain of questions yield answers that lower the built up stakes we’ve created in our heads fueled by shame and scarcity.

Brene Brown is a guru and emotional sherpa in this space!