When Ambition Trumps Love.


Psychologist Tim Kasser, author of The High Price of Materialism, concluded the pursuit of materialistic values (money, possessions, and social status) leads to lower well-being and more distress in individuals.

So how do we achieve balance in our lives?  Where do we derive our well being if not from our social income and status?  How to we live our life with purpose and make time for meaningful connections?

“Latin Americans are the most positive people in the world, with their region being home to eight of the top 10 countries for positive emotions worldwide. Residents in Panama and Paraguay are the most likely to report experiencing positive emotions. Singaporeans, Armenians, and Iraqis are least likely worldwide to report feeling positive emotions.” – Gallop survey.

The study went further to explain “Residents of Panama, which ranks 90th in the world with respect to GDP per capita, are among the most likely to report positive emotions. Residents of Singapore, which ranks fifth in the world in terms of GDP per capita, are the least likely to report positive emotions.”


So reports conclude that connection is where we derive our sense of well being.  If we are out of balance (chasing fame and fortune over tending to our connections) we not only have lower well being, but we also miss the most precious gift life has to offer; love.

It’s not about swearing fealty to poverty either.  Interesting, as with most things in life, there does seem to be a tipping point.  A point of ambition that we derive satisfaction and feel more fulfilled.

Time reported “People say money doesn’t buy happiness. Except, according to a new study from Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School, it sort of does — up to about $75,000 a year. The lower a person’s annual income falls below that benchmark, the unhappier he or she feels. But no matter how much more than $75,000 people make, they don’t report any greater degree of happiness.”

Moreover, “It’s no surprise, then, that when the same polls are done in different countries, Americans come out as a bit of a mixed lot: they’re fifth in terms of happiness, 33rd in terms of smiling and 10th in terms of enjoyment.

At the same time, they’re the 89th biggest worriers, the 69th saddest and fifth most stressed people out of the 151 nations studied.

Even so, perhaps because of the country’s general wealth, they are in the top 10 citizenries where people feel their lives are going well, beaten out by such eternal optimists as the Canadians, New Zealanders and Scandinavians.” Time.


So how do we fulfill our personal goals and still tend to our connections?  For me, it was about mindful intent to being present.

When I was tired, I made a decision I would tell my kids “yes”.  “Yes I will jump on the trampoline with you.  Yes I will help you bake cookies for that event.  Yes we can do handstands!”

It is all too easy to allow work to become all consuming and get stuck on that arrogant self important party line “I’m so busy”.

If we are too busy to be present, too busy to connect, too busy to enjoy the connections in our life, then we are stuck in a silo of self serving our own ego.

It is far too easy to use being busy as an excuse to be selfish and self-absorbed.

It was very hard to work from home and be present for three children ages 2, 4 and 5! I certainly needed help to pull it off.  I found myself torn between two needs.  The need to nurture my own goals and the need to be present for our children.

Sometimes they got the short end.  Many times I did.  My husband became the last on the list.  This is pretty normal when you have young children.

Once they are a bit more independent and you sort of survive those “intense years”, how can you regain your footing?  

For us, we put the marriage first. The kids will grow up and leave us.  So we have to maintain an US for when that happens.

So we started to work on the transition back into the life of us before children.  We are both extremely family-centric.   For us it didn’t take much attention to our marriage to both feel satisfied.

Next, we quickly learned it was not so much the quantity of time we had together but rather the quality of time.  Dinner became so meaningful, because the phones were set aside and everyone was present to sit and talk.  This is when plans were discussed, happenings at school were retold, farts were released and all forms of internal pressure were relieved!

We shifted our priorities.  Instead of telling the kids, “I am too busy right now, give me a few minutes,” I started to say “you are more important than anything else”. I would immediately stop work, look them in the eyes, and ask them what they needed.  Once I met their needs first, then I would ask for x amount of time uninterrupted.  At that next time segment, I would force myself to stop and go check in with them.  This took amazing discipline and had a HUGE PAYOFF.

The children interrupted less.  The children became even more independent.  They knew their needs would be met first.  They felt safe they were in fact more important and so the need to “cling” and provoke a connection lessened.

It became clear the interruptions were just a way to seek connection.  They loved me unconditionally.  They wanted me to let them know I was present and they mattered.

I also noticed I was way more productive.  This built in breaks for me to relax and regroup.  It was a total win for all of us.

What we also learned is that material success can be taken away.  If blind ambition pushes love aside then what happens to self if material tragedy hits?  

We realized the idea that we could relax or make time for presence “later” was a set up.  It relied on the idea that somehow we could stop being a workaholic whenever we wanted. This proved to be a faulty assumption.  It also relied on the premise the kids would understand or that we could make up for lost time.  Nope.

Those childhood years fly by.  The security we give our children at their most vulnerable lays the foundation for their world view.

Did mom and dad talk to me? Did they notice me?  Am I ok?  Did they invest in my well being?  Did they show me how to create balance in life? Did I learn how to manage my own self care? Did they show by actions the virtues of service, selflessness, sacrifice and prioritizing by modeling those values that lead to well being?

Choosing love.  Being disciplined to stop and offer service to those we love.  Making time for our goals, our marriage and our own well being is no easy task!

The alternative is a “busy life” where we may find much loneliness.  A life riddled with health issues.  A life with sadness as marriages that could have been great crumble under the neglect.

When in doubt choose love.  Love Changes Everything.




This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Nina

    Very awesome article.

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