How to Balance Work, Life, and Your Ambition


Finding the right work-life balance is hard enough, but what if we add ambition to the mix. According to Webster’s, ambition is “an ardent desire for rank, fame or power.” Is it possible to have it all?

The answer to this, as the late great Jim Rohn used to say so often in his seminars, is “Of course…” It really is possible to have our cake and eat it, too. However, like most things in life, it’s not easy. Most people end up sacrificing one for another, which inevitably leads to dissatisfaction. The happiest, most successful people I know find a way to balance all three.

How do they do it?

Before I answer that, it’s important to ask ourselves an important question – Do we know what we really want? Most people think they do, but if you ask a few probing questions, you’ll find they have nothing more than a vague idea of what their ideal life would look like. Most people will say things like “rich” and “a big house.” Without a concrete plan in place, there’s no target to aim at. Those people that have it all didn’t get there by mistake, rather they came up with a plan and worked it. That’s why the first step is…

Step 1: Write it down

All of us have dreams. Successful people have goals. What’s the difference between the two? According to bestselling author and international speaker Brian Tracy, “A goal without a plan is only a dream.” When I work with clients to improve their productivity or work with their teams to bridge cultural gaps, one of the first things I do is ask them to show me their plan. The most common answer I hear back is “Well, I haven’t got it written down, but I can tell you.” Big mistake. The problem with “plans” in our head means that we really haven’t thought things through. From the moment we start to write things down, things get real. On paper, we can begin to formulate a plan of action which is why it’s critical to get all our ideas out of our heads written down. I suggest a list of no less than 70 items. Then we need to…

Step 2: Prune it

Once we’ve got all our hopes and dreams down on paper, we can start to see what we really want. The key in life isn’t to do everything, it’s just not possible. Instead, we need to figure out what we really want to do and then focus on doing them. With all our ideas written down, it’s time to do some weeding. Do we really need that yacht? How many rooms do we really want? Who’s going to clean them? Do we really want a six-pack? The answer to many of our “dreams” is a no so cross them off and move on to the next step…

Step 3: Time it

Once we know what we really want, it’s time to start figuring out how long will each one take. We only have so much time so it’s imperative we invest it wisely. Some goals will impede others, some will enhance them.

After surviving the tsunami that ravaged South East Asia back in 2004, I wanted to write a book to if nothing else document my thoughts for my future children. I calculated I could write one page a day without affecting detracting from my wife or my work. I burned the midnight oil for about 16 months, and it was done.

If we want to get that promotion, that might require some more work at the office. It’s important to make it clear to your family how much of a commitment it will be and how you intend to make it up to them. A nice trip to Hawaii or a camping trip to Yosemite to thank them for their patience and understanding goes a long way. The key here is to involve your family members in the process so they feel part of the process.

With that all in place, we need to remember to…

Step 4: Make health a priority

We can’t expect to have it all if we forsake our health. We need to make three things a priority – a good night’s sleep, daily exercise, and a good diet. These ensure that we are in the best shape both mentally and physically with which to go after our goals.

Too many of us make the mistake of thinking we can get by on five hours sleep, that our body feels fine without working out. As many of my friends have found out the hard way, neglecting our bodies can lead to devastating consequences. A millionaire friend of mine found himself hospitalized at the age of 40 for months for failing to take care of himself. Luckily, with a radical change in diet and lifestyle, he managed to recover. Recently, I heard Robin Sharma say that “Supreme health is true wealth.” Wise words indeed.

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