Love and Personal Goals: Balancing Ambition and Relationships

What’s the one thing that all successful people have in common? It’s not good looks, great hair, or a trust fund. The real secret to success is successful relationships – both on the surface, and at a deeper level.

A recent meta-analysis of more than 400 scientific studies published in the Personality and Social Psychology Review concluded that to be a thriving, successful human being, strong relationships are a prerequisite. Having “support providers” in place can help buffer the effects of stress during hard times, pushing you to step outside your box and grow toward new goals.

A study by researchers at the University of Notre Dame found that individuals with high levels of ambition and drive achieve higher levels of education and land more prestigious jobs, but they aren’t necessarily happier or healthier. While ambition can push you to excel, it’s crucial to temper this drive with mindfulness, compassion, and alignment with your personal values.

Relationships are “work,” too. Just like you cannot effortlessly excel on the job, you have to put time and thought into your personal life. Success with friendships, family life, and romantic partners requires its own type of “work ethic.” They can be a safe place to fall when needed, but they also require a lot of time, attention, and focus to really thrive.

Networking, Relationships, & Reciprocity at Work

In networking and other types of professional interactions, most people operate as either “takers,” “matchers,” or “givers.” Recent research shows that “takers” do not have long-term success at work because there is usually a long line of people waiting to stab them in the back when the opportunity arises. “Matchers” are people who help others, but only with the expectation of return favors. They also don’t tend to fare well at work, because they seem to be opportunists. “Givers,” or those who give without expectation of anything in return, both fail and win big. Across occupations, givers dominate at both the top and bottom of the success ladder. Some givers get exploited or burn out. The rest achieve extraordinary results across a wide range of industries.

Depth vs. Breadth

LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner is renowned for his “small but strategic networking”. As you might imagine, he has an overwhelming number of connection requests. But he chooses to keep his network intimate and meaningful, focusing on individuals who align with his objectives and values. His method of networking not only echoes his career trajectory, but also emphasizes that the success of strategic networking lies in the quality, not the quantity, of connections.

Forming meaningful relationships is a cornerstone of career growth and personal fulfillment. After all, it’s far more rewarding to achieve something as a team if you really enjoy, respect, even love your colleagues. It’s far more fulfilling to succeed at work when your work is your calling, your vocation, and part of something that you believe in. Interpersonal connections provide emotional support, facilitate knowledge exchange, and can even turn into beneficial mentorships when we’re all moving the ball forward together to make the world a better place.

The Importance of a Mentor

Finding someone at work to support, encourage, and challenge you is one of the best ways to develop your skills and reach your career goals. Indra Nooyi, former CEO of PepsiCo, is known for nurturing the relationships that led to her success. Reflecting on her journey, she acknowledges, “If I hadn’t had mentors, I wouldn’t be here today.”

Mentorships are relationships like any other. Many start off like friendships, where we call someone more senior or experienced for advice, and amazingly, this successful, powerful person always seems to have time for us. The truth is that senior executives often benefit powerfully by being connected with a young, rising star in their field. The relationship becomes reciprocal, and they welcome the opportunity to help and learn from someone good-hearted, smart, and innovative. So start with this question: where do I eventually want to be, and who is currently “there” right now? Look for someone whose personal and professional life you admire, so you can seek to emulate not just their work, but their life.

Work / Life Balance … Is It Possible?

Back in 2016, I wrote the blog Top 3 Signs You’re Bringing the Office Home. It offers some timeless tips that are still relevant today, but the reality is that in 2024, my hard-working life and career coaching clients are always on, and often working from home. I believe the old “work-life balance” concept is outdated. Today, most of us need a more powerful way to manage both our work and our personal lives because when we don’t, everything implodes.

Start at Home

The stability of your home and personal life is important for not only your success, but for your fulfillment. Of course, some workplaces are full of “givers.” But most work relationships involve some level of opportunism. If you’re pushing so hard at work that you have no friends or significant other, you might want to scale back. Success on paper isn’t the same if you’re lonely at the top. In fact, it may not feel like success at all.

Personal setbacks inevitably lead to professional setbacks and vice versa. Many executives have to take extended time off when relationship issues pop up, or when a child is in crisis. In the same way, trouble at work tends to spill over into one’s home and relationships. The most important thing to do? Instead of focusing on balance, focus on alignment. In life coaching, we focus on alignment of your goals, your happiness or sense of fulfillment, and your values.

For example, you can plan your career out perfectly and manage to hit every milestone and promotion along the way. But if you’re not happy pursuing the plan, no amount of accolades or recognition will help. Many people who have reached what they thought was “the top” of their field soon realize that all the money in the world, a high-level job, a successful enterprise, or an important-sounding title are just not enough. When you are unhappy, external factors like success at work becomes a small part of the picture. If you hurt people along the way, you won’t sleep well at night. So stay in touch with your big-picture goals, personal and professional, so you know when to pump the brakes on “the plan.” Goals may include the type of person you want to be, how you spend your leisure time, or how you want to give back or make an impact. You won’t feel great about your career when it doesn’t align with your values, and you won’t be happy in your relationship when you don’t have time for your partner and family life.

Behind every successful person, or more accurately, around every successful person, is a network of people who are there to provide the appropriate support at the right time. No one is an island! First, make sure you’re clear on your own personal values. Then, go broader. Extend that same work ethic and values to your friendships, professional network, and personal connections. You might consider bringing your …

  • happiness, optimism and courage
  • ability to give from the heart and without expectation
  • honesty and reliability with everything you do
  • (insert your personal superpower here!)

Life Coaching to Build Love

Life Coaching with me, Catharine Ecton, is not marriage counseling or couples therapy. It is about noticing, identifying, and focusing on assumptions, beliefs, and self-limiting thoughts that keep one from moving forward to reach their goals, no matter what those goals are. I help my clients both build better relationships at work, and at home by working collaboratively to change our lives one day at a time. I help my clients live a life they love – both at work and at home! I specialize in Grief Coaching, which means I am specially equipped to handle the loss of a job or loved one. With the right tools, a few powerful questions, and the intention to create relationships that are authentically ours, we can find the answers we seek and get to where we want to be.

As with any big change, it is so much better when you have an ally to help you in this work. To enlist my help, call Catharine Ecton Life Coaching or schedule your free Life Coaching consultation today. In my blog about Life Coaching vs. Therapy, I discussed the differences and reasons why you might want to hire me as your life coach.

Not sure if Life Coaching is for you? Read Life Coaching testimonials from several of my happy clients here.

Contact me for a complimentary, no-obligations life coaching consultation and we can work on making your life a more powerful, positive one together. Or use the Appointment Scheduler and pick a time that works for you for a phone consultation. I look forward to hearing from you.

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