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Ambition: Is Yours Healthy or A Precursor To Burnout?

Your body is composed primarily of water. Your physical makeup is roughly 60% to 65% water. You expel water daily by sweating and through urination and other bodily processes. That water must be replaced, or else you will suffer physically and mentally.


You probably understand you should be drinking water regularly. It goes right through you, so it needs to be replaced. The Mayo Clinic recommends passing roughly a gallon or so of water through your body every day. That trusted health and wellness authority also warns against drinking too much water.


If you deluge your system with too much water over a short period, your kidneys can't get rid of the excess fast enough. The sodium level of your blood becomes extremely diluted. This can cause hyponatremia, which is a life-threatening condition.


What does this “drop in a bucket” scenario have to do with ambition and burnout?


We mention it because there are some similarities. Too much of a good thing can sometimes turn bad ...with both water and ambition.


Being ambitious is beneficial in some ways. It means you want to challenge yourself positively. You're not afraid to accept responsibility and tackle tasks on the job or personal life that might test your limits.


Healthy ambition can help you improve the quality of life you and your loved ones enjoy. That's a good thing. On the other hand, an unhealthy level of ambition can jumpstart burnout.

Burnout Happens Gradually


Psychologists Gail North and Herbert Freudenberger have broken down the burnout process. It doesn't happen all at once. Prevention is easier if you know what leads to the eventual development of debilitating burnout.


The first phase of burnout is excessive ambition. This is a compulsion to prove oneself as worthy or capable at average levels. When ambition gets out of control, a person obsessively wants himself and others to notice he can take on responsibility and create great results.


It's the first of 12 phases of burnout that North and Freudenberger have identified. It can lead to neglecting needs, denial of emerging problems, social withdrawal, depression, and burnout.


Take a look at your life. Talk to the people that are important to you. If you obsess about proving your worth to yourself and others, you might need to get your ambition in check. This could prevent a slide down the slippery slope that leads to full-blown burnout and a mental or physical breakdown.

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