The definition of ambition is having a strong desire or passion to succeed.
While our modern society rewards and celebrates individuals who are ambitious, what if ambition could actually be bad for us?
Studies have shown that as a whole, ambitious individuals are only slightly happier than non-ambitious individuals, and tend to live slightly shorter lives. I am of the opinion that some ambition is a good thing. If we never had any passion or desire to succeed then nothing much in this world would ever get done!
I have met plenty of individuals who are living on purpose and who are ambitious in a positive way and have a very strong desire to change the world. However being ambitious is not what motivates them, it is just a result of that they love doing.
The biggest issue I have with Ambition is that our Ego is always trying to make friends with it.
Our Ego is the created image of ourselves which we sometimes believe is who we truly are!
Remember you are not your life story; you are not your possessions; how much money you have or how many people you know. All this may have been created by you, but it is not you.
The ego is all about feeling special and creating a story of your life that keeps you feeling separate (or above) everyone else. Ambition can be supercharged fuel for your EGO!
The issue with ambition is that our society applauds and celebrates ambitious individuals. Being ambitious can begin to make you feel special and separate from anyone else. This feeling can become very addictive.
Success and the Ego
The danger is really hidden in success. If you are ambitious but never succeed then chances are you’re not going to feel very special. However if you succeed with your ambition sooner or later you will be applauded.
While I am not suggesting that we should not applaud individuals for their efforts it is very important to note that very few individuals can deal with success in a positive way.
Success and Ambition can be a very powerful cocktail for our Egos. Once this cycle begins it becomes very addictive. One of the simplest ways to determine whether your spirit (your real self) or Ego is controlling your ambition, is to look at how you feel day to day.
Does your ambition leave you feeling tired and exhausted by the end of the week?
Do you feel compelled to tell everyone about what you’re trying to achieve?
Does your ambitious nature make you feel special?
Do you feel guilty for times when you’re doing nothing and not achieving?
If you answered yes to some or all of these questions then chances are you are being controlled to some extent by your ego.
Success has become an addictive pursuit in its own right – and not just a by-product of doing what you love.
Ambition and success should be a natural result of doing what you love.
The best way to be ambitious and successful is not to even give the two words any thought at all. Your aim in life is to discover your purpose and do work that you love. If the love and passion you have for your work drives your ambition, then great, and if you become successful even better.
If your main priority is to ‘be ambitious and successful’ then you have truly missed the point of life.
Do what you love and forget being successful!
If you have a passion or calling, then by all means give it all you have. Make the doing the priority – not the result.
Let’s say you want to be an actor. Instead of wishing to be a famous actor, how about you focus your attention on being the best actor you can be, in whatever role you are doing. Focus on being the best at your craft.
Of course you still have to network and try to improve your chances of doing more of your work, but this should be secondary to the doing or the art itself. I am amazed at how many individuals I know who make statements like “I want to be a successful entrepreneur” or ” I want to be a famous architect”. Their focus is on the result, of being ‘famous and successful’ and not in the actual role itself (the ‘doing’).
You must have a love for the work itself otherwise your ambition will slowly burn you out. If you don’t have a love for the process then you will never be satisfied with the result.
I could never have started a flying school if my goal was to be the most successful flying school in Australia. I love instructing and I love growing a business. That is always primary. If the business happens to end up being the best flying school in Australia then great, but if not, then that’s completely ok too; I’m not going to lose any sleep over it.
What you enjoy as a process
If you’re currently very ambitious to be the best at something and you don’t enjoy the process then I suggest you take a deeper look at what your motivations are?
The why is very important. Ask yourself often, why am I doing this? If the answer is ‘to be successful’ or secure or feel better about yourself then your Ego may be running the show.
If the answer is because you love the process, want to help others and can’t imagine doing anything else… then congratulations you are on the right track.
Going with the flow of life
I liken life to rowing a boat across a river with a strong current. Sometimes that current is going to take you to places you don’t want to go, however you still have considerable control over the rowing boat and you will eventually get to the other side.
Going with the flow of life while trying to create a meaningful life is a bit like this. But ambition ruled by the ego wants to replace the oars of the row boat with a jet engine. It wants to go to a particular spot and get there fast. It may work for a while but eventually you’re going to run out of fuel or hit a sandbank!
Natural success and ambition is a result of our purpose. I believe we have to accept that at times we have no control over our lives and at other times we have a lot of control. If we can learn to accept this fact and keep playing our part in the game of life then we will be able to achieve our dreams in a peaceful, joyful manner.
Life is just too exhausting when you allow your Ego to be in charge of your ambitions. You will not look back at your life during your final living hours and think “I wish I was more ambitious”.
Who you are and how you treat others is more important than what you do!
While we have all been givena special gift and purpose it is always secondary to the relationship we have with other individuals, and with God if we believe in God. God is more concerned with our character than what we produce.
I loved reading the semi-authorised biography of Steve Jobs. It is evident that he was very successful “in the world” however it was also clearly evident that often he did not display much compassion to many of the people around him. He was an individual who was so focused on success and ambition that he ignored the most important fundamental truth, that God and people are all that really matters in this world.
How we treat and relate to others is what determines our spiritual maturity. What is the point of being successful if we hurt numerous individuals along the way?
I believe Steve Jobs started realising this truth in that last couple of years of his life.
Ambition and success the right way!
If you have ever seen the singer KD Lang interviewed, what becomes strikingly apparent is her total lack of an Ego. She sings because she loves to and because she has an incredible gift to share with the world. Her goal was not to be successful or ambitious; her primary goal was to sing simply because she had to. We could say she is ambitious to share her gift with others and this has naturally led to her success. Her gift brings her joy regardless of whether she herself is successful or not.
So forget about being ambitious and successful, start working on your purpose and do what brings you joy.
The rest will take care of itself.