Emily Esfahani Smith writes that “there’s more to life than leaving home” and touches on the motivations behind the decision to stay or go:
When I asked about the connection between ambition and personal relationships, Kammeyer-Mueller said that while the more ambitious appeared to be happier, that their happiness could come at the expense of personal relationships. “Do these ambitious people have worse relationships? Are they ethical and nice to the people around them? What would they do to get ahead? These are the questions the future research needs to answer.”
Existing research by psychologist Tim Kasser can help address this issue. Kasser, the author of The High Price of Materialism, has shown that the pursuit of materialistic values like money, possessions, and social status-the fruits of career successes-leads to lower well-being and more distress in individuals. It is also damaging to relationships: “My colleagues and I have found,” Kasser writes, “that when people believe materialistic values are important, they…have poorer interpersonal relationships [and] contribute less to the community.” Such people are also more likely to objectify others, using them as means to achieve their own goals.
“The growing good of the world,” says George Eliot, “is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.”
Ambition is probably most useful when there’s a particular goal in sight. Often we’re ambitious in spirit, and without a particular vision for the sort of life we want to live or the world we want to shape.
I think it’s the visionless ambitious that tend to be dangerous, because without vision there’s slim chance of obtaining contentment.