Mendoza School of Business

Why ambition could make you rich, but not happy

Published: March 9, 2012 / Author: Tim Hume

Admired in some people, reviled in others — there are few character traits as confoundingly double-edged as ambition. Generally accepted as a prerequisite for success, it is nonetheless just as widely viewed as a dirty word. So is it a virtue, or a vice?

According to new research, while ambition can help you achieve a more prestigious education and corporate success, these may not make you any happier in the long run. Less driven “slackers” may be just as happy — and in fact live longer.

The study was led by Timothy Judge, professor of management at the University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business.

He said social scientists tended to make frequent reference to ambition, without ever really attempting to explain the concept. In response, he had studied data tracking the lives of more than 700 individuals over seven decades, in an attempt to create a better understanding of how ambition shapes our lives.

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Topics: Mendoza