Last year, I didn’t get promoted.

I had done everything my manager told me I needed to do and followed up in each of our 2 week check-ins to make sure I was on track. I worked HARD and produced results.

My manager’s manager told me that I was a “badass engineer” and that I was doing better than people with computer science degrees (I studied cognitive science).

So when the promotion emails went out, and I saw that I wasn’t on the list, I was confused. Angry. Hurt. Frustrated.

I had been grinding all year to make sure I was on track for this promotion and to find out by email that I had been passed over was a complete shock.

I couldn’t turn my mind off for days.

I was so stressed and frustrated from it that I physically started experiencing severe chest pain that limited my breathing by about 75% and lasted for 3 days.

And that’s when I realized that something was very, very wrong.

The fact that my body physically manifested the stress I felt in my head was a clear sign to me that my mindset was 100% unhealthy and would break me down if it kept continuing.

But WHY was this so stressful for me?

Objectively, not getting promoted isn’t that big of a deal.

But the thing I couldn’t come to terms with was the very basic truth that even if you do every single thing 100% right, they can choose not to promote you with no reason necessary.

At the end of the day, the company would always be in control and they could change the rules or make arbitrary decisions whenever they wanted.

I couldn’t understand that.

I sum it up as: “If you don’t do every single thing I tell you that you need to do, you won’t get promoted. But even if you do every single thing I tell you that you need to do, you still won’t get promoted”.

It felt like a broken contract: I had held up my end of the bargain and they didn’t.

And that’s when I realized that there’s too many things out of your control to let work be your biggest priority in life.

Yes, I lost out on a $12k raise, but learning this lesson so early on is worth way more.

If I had gotten promoted, I would’ve continued overworking even as I suffered overwhelming stress and anxiety.

If I had gotten promoted, I might’ve set a dangerous precedent of work over family and spoken at a conference for work instead of flying home to see my boyfriend on Valentine’s Day.

If I had gotten promoted, I could’ve felt a loyalty that prevented me from considering other companies, even if they offered to pay me more.

They say that true suffering comes from attachment, and this was finally the wake-up call I needed to stop being attached to work.

Since then, I’ve put work in its rightful place.

It’s no longer at the center of my life, but simply a part of it.

Now I can spend the rest of my career avoiding the mistakes that a lot of successful people say they made: putting work over everything else.

Yes, I still do what needs to be done but I am no longer willing to “chase the carrot” especially since it leaves irreparable damage to my personal life in its path.

I don’t stay extra hours or check in on weekends or bring my work home because I know the costs of putting work first instead of just the potential rewards.

No longer is the possibility of being promoted at work worth the guarantee of being disrupted at home for me.

In other words, now I choose my personal life over my work life and I haven’t looked back.