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How to stop being overambitious?!



Just wanted to pose a philosophical question to the high-achieving crew here.

How do you guys tone down the overambition? For example, I specifically got myself into a masters program that was top in the field but also cost me a terrible terrible amount of debt. Prior to that, I entered a "prestigious" industry (investment banking) and ended up burning out. 

I know that if I set my mind to it, I can be - and have been - wildly successful. But I also know that on that road to attainment, I usually end up irritable, overwhelmed, anxious, and push a lot of friends and family away. I stop doing things I enjoy, I stop wanting to be social, etc. I see how it damages my life but I can't keep myself away from trying to do more, be better, and becoming obsessed with prestige.

I'm really not trying to humblebrag or anything. Somedays I really really want to be able to NOT be obsessed with getting into a PhD program. I want to be happy with just getting a terminal masters and practicing as a clinician. How do you get out of your head, to stop overanalyzing everything, to choose to be happy with what life throws you instead of always wondering how you can one-up the opportunities you've been given?


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Some of it comes from experience, through making those mistakes. You sit down and decide what is important for you in your life. It can be anything -- evenings with the spouse, time off with friends, X hours of sleep a night, cooking and eating healthy food, whatever. Then you think through what that means in terms of actual time and actions that need to be taken, and you prioritize them. If you need to, you actually schedule them in your calendar. Then you can't commit to doing anything else during those times, because they are already booked. You think about your goals and how far you're willing to go to achieve them. For me, not going into debt was a basic requirement of any graduate degree. Searching for a job, there were some compromises I was willing to make and some that I wasn't, so I chose not to apply to jobs that were an absolute 'no' for whatever reason, regardless of what anyone else said I should do. You realize that you need to do what makes you happy and to hell with what anyone else might think.

So if you want to be a clinician and for that you need a masters, then that's what you should do. What's the point in getting a PhD in the first place? I don't understand why that's even a question. You don't need it, so don't do it. You could have years of on the job experience, you'd be making more money, you'd be saving toward your retirement, and you would not be doing a degree you don't need -- all good things. That's the best way to get to your goal, so who cares if there is another irrelevant degree out there? You're also not getting a law degree or a teaching certificate either, and I assume you're not concerned about that? So why is the PhD different? Going after goals one after the other without even thinking about whether they make any sense is just a sign that you haven't taken the time to really sort through your life. You need to slow down and define your goals, then actually think about how you get there. Only do the things that make sense, not the things that look good on paper, because you live your life in the real world, not on paper. In the end, no one will care if you have a PhD or not. What's most important is that you are happy. 

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