How Much Ambition Is Too Much?

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As the end of the semester approaches, many college students are finding themselves starting to think about future plans, jobs and goals. Stress levels can be high, causing students to act irrationally and worry too much about the future. Is too much ambition inhibiting college students from truly living?
“Ambition is the need or drive to achieve through working for something of personal value,” said Carl Pickhardt, Ph.D., the author of several books on the subject. “Ambition is both learned and taught.”
Students are learning to be ambitious from an early age when role models are successful due to a drive to reach a positive final result, said Pickhardt. At a certain point, most students start to motivate themselves to strive to do better.
“Enjoying the process of working to achieve and actually achieving a goal both reinforce and satisfy ambition,” said Pickhardt. “Ambition always has a goal or objective.”
Students these days are finding the motivation to get good grades, go to graduate school or get a job in today’s competitive job market. However, the feeling of needing to always succeed in order to be fine in the future can hurt a student’s mental well-being. 
“This ambition is stressful because a lot is at stake: successfully beginning one’s future and establishing one’s capacity to economically survive,” said Pickhardt.
While college is not only a time to learn, but also a place to have fun and let loose, high stress levels caused by a self-driven ambition can create an atmosphere of constant work.  
“I think students are ambitious in school because they see everything around them that they want one day and think that in order to get it they need to do well in college,” said Mary Kreke, a student at Mount St. Mary’s University.  “I do think that balancing out what parts of your life you are ambitious about is important.” 
While ambition can be beneficial to schoolwork (to an extent), living in the future can be detrimental, according to experts.
“When ambition becomes of over-riding importance in a person’s life, then a lot of sacrifices can be made,” said Pickhardt. “For example, focusing on self at the expense of others, focusing on work at the expense of health and play, focusing on a single aspect of oneself and neglecting the whole.”
Many students can recount the tale of the student who seemed to be forever holed up in the library, studying and never socializing. Being able to take advantage of all aspects of college is important for growth, said Pickhardt. 
Many universities offer counseling services for students who feel that the pressure to succeed and an overwhelming feeling of ambition that can cause mental duress. 
“There are definitely some students who immerse themselves in classes and schoolwork and end up spending the four years stressing about grades,” said Rosalie Nathans, a student at Harvard University, who was the creative director for a fashion show.  “In 20 years, I might not remember the difference between JavaScript and JQuery, but I’ll remember having lunch with Donna Karan and directing my own fashion show.”
Photo: at 123RF

Freshman > Journalism > University of Maryland

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