Creating Work-Life Balance: The Struggle of Love vs Ambition

This idea of work-life balance has been very trendy in recent years, although the concept itself has existed for much longer. It seems as though the “hustle” and the idea of “more, more, more” has infiltrated our brains and made us believe that unless we are seeing tangible, almost always financial, results, we’re not doing enough. It’s made even the sanest of people lose their cool in pursuit of the gold pot under the rainbow. On the other hand, we’re told that happiness should be our goal. Can we have both? Canambition and love and passion coexist?


It’s not a surprise that Love is a hot button topic. We fantasize about it and read about it all while bombarded by the idea of a perpetual happy ending we may be missing out on. It seems for many of us, an exclusive universe we can’t penetrate using false pretenses or by purchasing all access tickets from the scalpers outside. We only need to know how to enter. It’s the inspiration behind the musical anthems of decades as well as the downfall of many a legend. Within your own world, it may be the reason you were created or a more stoic reminder of something lost. 

Such strong feelings also resonate with our need for Ambition but I want to discuss whether there is a distinct choice between it and its counterpart. Yes, the age old saga of Love versus Ambition. As a woman myself, this conversation is not groundbreaking or new. Neither am I saying that men can’t relate to the chasm-like gap the two can imbue in life. I’m only stating that the women you know are not strangers to sacrifice when choosing to attain either one of these two strong willed forces. So ladies and gentlemen, let’s examine ourselves a little bit deeper.

Let’s backtrack a bit and reflect on these questions: Have you ever experienced a moment where the opinions of your loved ones have been negative towards a choice you’ve made? What was your initial feeling once you saw and heard their responses? Regardless of how tough you are, their feelings may have been a major hit to your confidence while in pursuit of a future goal or a shot of steel-like motivation in your blood. Over seven months ago, my own experience was the latter. I had just shared with my family my impending move to Spain for a new job (much farther than any place either I or my family had been before). 

Naturally, my loved ones expressed equal feelings of excitement and trepidation. As time went on, a particular family member became an unofficial Tomi Lahren of negative news about my imminent residence. I would hear more frequently the adverse realities of living abroad. Truly, topics like having to adjust to a new culture, overcoming the language barrier and unfortunately encountering possible prejudices like racism are all necessary topics to explore responsibly. However, their Tone and Delivery made the message hard to swallow and I grew more combative as my departure drew closer. I sought more positive reinforcements and found much motivation to remain so.

A quote I love by an anonymous writer says, “Energy is contagious, positive and negative alike. I will forever be mindful of what and who I am allowing into my space”. It reminds me that who or what I impart in daily impact the habitual behaviour that eventually becomes who I am. Issac Newton’s third law of motion, “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction,” supports the view that we must be mindful of our influences. In the KJV Bible Version, Proverbs 22:24, 25 (KJV) reads, “Do not make friends with a hot-tempered person, do not associate with one easily angered, or you may learn their ways and get yourself ensnared”. The fact is that these stress factors may be the very reason we have to choose between Love and Ambition at all. 

Canadian endocrinologist Hans Selye, an early researcher on the biological effects of stress created the theory of General Adaptation Syndrome and that of adaptation energy. Selye believed the true goal ‘is certainly not to avoid stress; stress is a part of life’ but instead to ‘find the optimum stress level [in which our] energy can adapt at a rate and in a direction adjusted to the innate structure of your mind and body’ (Selye, 1946); to achieve one’s perfect sense of balance.

Selye’s stress theory posits that each of us has an ideal level of tolerance to these stress factors at which level we perform best. While these environmental stresses can cause this perfect balance to fluctuate, stress in itself is unavoidable. As such, true scrutiny should be placed on the factors we endure as they are assessed for credibility, value and even future potential benefits. It is within these times of personal inspection, we make a choice between our primal nature of wanting to be loved and desiring self actualization. Universal stress factors like family, income, aspirations, available resources and even preparation for opportunities are just some things we evaluate when holding the proverbial watering pail for the grass on either side of the fence. However, why are the two even competitors instead of allies? 

Is it truly impossible to win at both? Maybe you can win, but in my limited experience and echoed by countless polls, scientific studies, romance movies, TED Talks and so many others; each force seems to demand their own podium, not to be shared. A totem pole is erected and there can only be one claiming top spot. Similar to the phenomenon of #CuffingSeason, everyone wants to be the number one choice. We may feel obligated to a list of options, making us flounder under the weight of choosing our need to feel loved versus that of desiring success in our goals. In my case, choosing a new career overseas forced me to confront the possibility of losing support from my loved ones.

Just getting through the daily TO DO list is hard enough in 24 hours, so I understand the battle of conflicting attention. Naturally that fight would extend to your own love life and career aspirations. Yet, I won’t dispute it. When you win big in Love or Ambition, the feeling is incomparable. But if you know the story of Shakespeare’s Othello, the fight between Love and Ambition can literally become deadly. Why does it seem that there is constant division in our ability as humans to balance both effectively? With the numerous studies on the struggle of Work-Life Balance, I do have some ideas.

Here is my own theory. I say choosing Love or Ambition is not the true dilemma. Instead we choose the side which will maintain the perfect sense of balance Selye spoke about. There is no right or wrong answer, but there are definite consequences for whichever side you pick. Burnout and depression are real mental conditions that can happen when self care is not prioritized. If we ignore our personal triggers we end up far off center of the optimum level Selye refers to. The industries profiting off this indecision make it no better.

The desire for love has amassed billions of dollars in profits from the creation of movies, literature, reality TV shows and even social media campaigns. Ambition is no stranger either. There are numerous media outlets, authors, programmes, industry influencers and self-help gurus dedicated to the pursuit of the perfect career path. All these influences have made its impact on your life.

Imagine your own life. Use your own mental barometer and think hard on the stress factors around you. In each of the situations you experienced, have you encountered a time when you chose between Love and Ambition? What was your decision? Do you believe you could have chosen both and achieved better results? At the end of the day, did you wish to please another instead of following your personal instincts? Do you believe this conflict of choice will always exist? I myself am not sure. But, I want to hear from you. Can both forces exist and be balanced? This is a simple question with a complex answer but I’m eager to hear your opinion. What are your thoughts?


Shauntel is a writer from Jamaica now living in Spain. She is all about pursuing the curious and enjoys testing the waters around her. Indefinitely inquisitive, Shauntel enjoys exploring new palettes brought to you by travelling the world, skipping small talk for meaningful conversations and breaking out in random karaoke and dance session with like minded anti-normies.

Citations: HANS SELYE, THE GENERAL ADAPTATION SYNDROME AND THE DISEASES OF ADAPTATION, The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology, Volume 6, Issue 2, 1 February 1946, Pag