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Relationships Are More Important Than Ambition - Emily Esfahani Smith - The Atlantic

Stashed in: Interconnectedness!, Women, #health, #happiness, Relationships, Awesome, Longevity!, Psychology!, Happiness, @emesfahanismith

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The conflict between career ambition and relationships lies at the heart of many of our current cultural debates, including the ones sparked by high-powered women like Sheryl Sandberg and Anne Marie Slaughter. Ambition drives people forward; relationships and community, by imposing limits, hold people back. Which is more important? Just the other week, Slate ran a symposium that addressed this question, asking, "Does an Early Marriage Kill Your Potential To Achieve More in Life?" Ambition is deeply entrenched into the American personae, as Yale's William Casey King argues in Ambition, A History: From Vice to Virtue­ -- but what are its costs?

In psychology, there is surprisingly little research on ambition, let alone the effect it has on human happiness. But a new study, forthcoming in the Journal of Applied Psychology, sheds some light on the connection between ambition and the good life. Using longitudinal data from the nine-decade-long Terman life-cycle study, which has followed the lives and career outcomes of a group of gifted children since 1922, researchers Timothy A. Judge of Notre Dame and John D. Kammeyer-Mueller of the University of Florida analyzed the characteristics of the most ambitious among them. How did their lives turn out?

The causes of ambition were clear, as were its career consequences. The researchers found that the children who were the most conscientious (organized, disciplined, and goal-seeking), extroverted, and from a strong socioeconomic background were also the most ambitious. The ambitious members of the sample went on to become more educated and at more prestigious institutions than the less ambitious. They also made more money in the long run and secured more high-status jobs.

But when it came to well-being, the findings were mixed. Judge and Kammeyer-Mueller found that ambition is only weakly connected with well-being and negatively associated with longevity.

Ambition is good for making money.

Ambition has no correlation with well-being.

Ambition is bad for longevity.

So does ambition correlate with happiness? Depends on what makes you happy!

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