8 warning signs that your ambition is leading to burnout

Is it possible to be too ambitious? If you want to be successful, you’ve got to fight tooth and nail to get what you want. 

But at what cost?  

You’re unable to sleep, you feel exhausted at the end of the day, and you struggle to enjoy the simple things because your mind’s running at 100 miles per hour! 

Ambition is what drives us to be more and to achieve more, but when your efforts affect your physical and emotional health, you need to make a change. 

Don’t feel guilty. Once you recognize these 8 warning signs that your ambition is leading to burnout, you can start your journey to living a balanced and happy life. 

1) You’re exhausted most of the time 

Constantly working late or extending your work week from 40 to 80 hours is not productive. Because you have such a strong desire to push yourself, you want to perform beyond measure to not only prove yourself but to achieve your goals. 

Sound like you? 

There’s nothing wrong with taking the lead in your career. If you have a goal, there’s no better motivator than yourself. The problem is your decision to extend yourself beyond what is a reasonable amount of time to be healthy and productive. 

Putting in too many hours means that your entire existence revolves around work. There is no balance because you end up sacrificing your relationships and your health. 

It is exhausting and eventually leads to burnout.

Ambition can be an excellent personality trait, but too much drive to the point of exhaustion is an unhealthy approach to achieving success. 

2) You experience frequent anxiety

It’s true. Persistent and high levels of ambition are a major cause of chronic anxiety

How does this happen? 

The more you’re driven by extrinsic goals such as financial or social status, the more value you place on these goals. When you fail to achieve them, you face uncertainty. 

Where do you go from here? The fear of the unknown leads to anxiety because you’re not in control. 

As an ambitious individual, you feel safe and secure when you’re in control of where you’re going. You want to know the outcome or direction of a decision that you’ve made, but when you’re overcome by uncertainty and fear, it creates anxiety. 

Over time, anxiety affects your confidence in your abilities, and you question your progress. Unfortunately, trying to function under high levels of anxiety is an unhealthy approach to your career and life in general. 

Anxiety isn’t a motivator when it becomes persistent and affects your daily functioning. If you don’t do something to ease your fears, it will cause burnout. 

3) You struggle to be in the moment

There are times when I feel guilty that I have extra time on my hands. I’ll think to myself, “How am I not using it to be more productive?”  

I know you can relate. 

Feeling so ambitious about your job and career makes it incredibly challenging to relax. Your definition of unwinding is, getting things done! 

On the other hand, the occasional successes that you experience when something works out the way you planned leave you feeling empowered and victorious. As soon as this feeling fades, you are already chasing the next “high.” This constant chase makes it nearly impossible to live in the moment. 

Your long-term health depends on taking time out to enjoy life. This could involve going to the gym or spending time with loved ones to maintain important relationships. When you can be in the moment, you’re reducing stress at the same time. 

As a bonus, these little moments help you to reflect and re-energize so you can really appreciate what you’ve achieved and just how far you’ve come. 

You work hard, so don’t forget to take time out to breathe, reflect, and simply be in the moment. 

4) You sacrifice relationships that don’t serve your goals 

condescending coworker 8 warning signs that your ambition is leading to burnout

You’re passionate and driven, and you want others to think the way you do. When they don’t align with your vision and mission, there’s little room to let them in. 

Being overly ambitious can become an addiction. You push yourself to the extremes because you’re after your next success, but this also means pushing the people you love away. 

By sacrificing close relationships it diminishes your support system, making it difficult to cope when life throws a curveball your way. 

A lack of support during stressful times is devastating to your mental and physical health. If you notice that your ambition is causing you to neglect important relationships, take a step back to reevaluate your priorities before you burn yourself out. 

5) You sweat the small stuff

You know how hard you work, and nine out of ten times, you experience success. But that one time that you don’t, it’s all you can focus on. 

I know the feeling. 

You put your heart and soul into your job, and when the outcome isn’t what you expect, you feel like a failure. 

Even if the undesirable outcome happens once in a while, you become preoccupied with your mishap, and it affects your progress in your job or attaining your goals. 

Your inability to move forward or to punish yourself for a minor error leads to high levels of stress and anxiety. Over time, the compounding stress places you at risk of experiencing complete burnout. 

Stop sweating the small stuff. 

Your ambition should be your strength, not your weakness. 

6) You struggle with self-care

Can you remember the last time you put yourself first? I don’t mean how successful you are or what you’ve accomplished. I’m talking about doing activities or hobbies that you find rewarding and revitalizing. 

Highly driven people struggle with self-care because prioritizing themselves seems to distract them from reaching success. This couldn’t be further from the truth. 

You’re driven by attaining your goals, which is not a bad thing until you find yourself functioning under high levels of constant stress. 

Stress has a physiological influence on your mind and body. You might experience night sweats, insomnia, unhealthy eating habits, and never feel happy because you’re not taking care of yourself. 

Long hours, late nights, and little reprieve from the daily onslaught of what it takes to be successful are all to your detriment. 

It’s all good and well to reach for the stars, but if it means that you can’t prioritize your health and you’re burning out, then was it really worth it? 

7) You’re under a lot of pressure 

The desire to constantly achieve means that you place yourself under a lot of pressure to consistently perform at a high standard. While a small amount of pressure is necessary to motivate us, it’s the extreme end of the scale that causes emotional turmoil. 

Work pressure is one of the leading signs that you’re on your way to burnout. 

Consider this scenario…

Your boss asks you if you’d be interested in handling a few extra work-related responsibilities. You want to make a good impression because you know there’s an opportunity for a promotion, which means a far better pay grade, so you agree to take on the project.

But your boss is constantly checking up on you and telling you what to do. You put in more hours and more effort, and the pressure starts to mount. 

Before long, you feel fatigued, stressed, and at your wits end as to how to get things done. Taking on more than what you are required to do or failing to ask for help is ambitious but incredibly taxing.

8) You don’t accept mistakes

he likes you but is hiding it at work 8 warning signs that your ambition is leading to burnout

As a high achiever, I’m sure you can relate to the phrase, “There’s no room for error.” When you’re goal-driven, all you want is the best, no matter how hard you have to push to get to where you want to be. 

Unfortunately, this is a counterproductive way of thinking. To achieve progress and personal growth in any circumstance, you must overcome failure. It is a normal part of life, and to place yourself under such tremendous pressure to never accept mistakes is a recipe for disaster. 

Creating unrealistic expectations in your personal and professional lives is a sure sign that you’re on the road to burnout. The desire to achieve perfection all the time creates stress and anxiety when things don’t go your way. 

It’s a never-ending cycle of distress when mistakes do happen that cannot be avoided. 

I’ll end with a quote from the basketball legend Michael Jordan: “ I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

Bottom line

Extreme ambition can affect our ability to cope and make sound decisions. It negatively impacts relationships because we’re so focused on the goal that we end up sacrificing the people in our corner. 

The secret to success is not to quit being a high achiever but to redirect that drive and energy into your health and well-being so you don’t burn out. 

If you can harness your ambition in a way that is not detrimental to yourself or others, then you can achieve your goals while living your best life. That’s what being successful is all about. 

Picture of Marcel Deer

Marcel Deer

Marcel is a journalist, gamer, and entrepreneur. When not obsessing over his man cave or the latest tech, he’s failing helplessly at training his obnoxious rescue dog ‘Boogies’.

Enhance your experience of Ideapod and join Tribe, our community of free thinkers and seekers.

Related articles

Most read articles

Get our articles

Ideapod news, articles, and resources, sent straight to your inbox every month.