A recent study by University of Notre Dame professor Timothy Judge, On the Value of Aiming High: The Causes and Consequences of Ambition, found that ambitious people aren’t necessarily happier than the rest — and they’re more likely to die early.According to a press release about the study, which is set to run in the Journal of Applied Psychology:
“If ambition has its positive effects, and in terms of career success it certainly seems that it does, our study also suggests that it carries with it some cost,” Judge says. “Despite their many accomplishments, ambitious people are only slightly happier than their less-ambitious counterparts, and they actually live somewhat shorter lives.”
Tracking 717 high-ability individuals over seven decades, Judge uses multiple criteria to measure ambition during periods of participants’ lives ranging from childhood to young adults just beginning their careers. Their education ranged from attending some of the world’s best universities — Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Stanford, Columbia, Cornell, Northwestern, Berkeley, Oxford and Notre Dame — to more modest educations, including high school diplomas and community college degrees.
“Ambitious kids had higher educational attainment, attended highly esteemed universities, worked in more prestigious occupations and earned more,” Judge says. “So, it would seem that they are poised to ‘have it all.’ However, we determined that ambition has a much weaker effect on life satisfaction and actually a slightly negative impact on longevity (how long people lived). So, yes, ambitious people do achieve more successful careers, but that doesn’t seem to translate into leading happier or healthier lives.”
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