It's true, some people are ambitious in such a way that they leave a wake of destruction. They kiss up and kick down or across. They want that next shiny thing so badly they will do almost anything to get it. It really gives ambition a bad name! It's not ambition that is the problem, but the motivation and internal state of the person. So how can you enjoy your ambition, reach for the stars and not be an as*hole?
This morning I was discussing with a fantastic client about how ambition can be seen as a dirty word.
You see, they didn't want to honour their ambitions, because of a terrifying ambitious type that they've seen in action.
The terrifying types are poor misguided souls (okay, they can be total as*holes), whose fierce ambition and actions can hurt their workplace, colleagues or business associates.
They will do whatever it takes to get what they want.
People or the big picture don’t really matter, their health and wellbeing or happiness do not matter.
Getting the next gold star is the only thing that matters.
Yet that next gold star doesn’t really take the edge off because this type of ambition is huge because it arises from an internal emptiness or sense of ‘not enoughness’.
It is insatiable, because achievements do not make us feel enough, that is our job and ours alone. It's another way bandaid solution, just like buying a new outfit or eating a tray of lamingtons.
It all fades quickly enough.
It is blind ambition, with a misguided ‘why’ beneath it.
The 'why' is that they are trying desperately to make yourself feel okay, good enough, of value.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve felt this type of ambition fuelled by 'not enoughness'. I can’t say that I left a trail of destruction (God, I hope not!), but I collected those gold stars like my life depended on it.
The glows of achievement were sadly short-lived.
For example, I remember getting a nationally competitive PhD scholarship; only a handful is awarded each year.
I was relieved.
I didn’t so much celebrate the achievement as exhale that I didn’t fail, then I looked instantly to the next gold star.
I can honestly say that it’s not the way I live now. Though I still need to stop and celebrate more!
I still have a lot of ambition but it has changed shape. It now comes from a different place.
So what’s the other type of ambition?
Well there is the ambition fuelled by a strong ‘why’. A why that is bigger that you.
What is your why? What really sets your heart on fire?
Do you want to entertain people, to teach them, to put beauty into their lives, to create easier ways for them to live, to provide a really useful service, to contribute to something bigger, to change society or to help people heal?
My 'why' centres on wanting as many as people as possible to be free from their own suffering caused by their thinking, to find their joy and purpose in life, to help change the world.
Sure, it's big. It also sets my heart on fire so bright that at times I feel unstoppable, even when the inevitable challenges arise.
You'll also notice that it's not so much about me as about service.
When your 'why' and your ambitious cravings are framed as service it puts people and how you treat them, centre stage. It calls for integrity. People matter, how you interact with the world matters.
It's an ambition that brings everyone up together, not a solo pursuit.
It's also not about filling an empty hole. It's about shining to give others permission to shine.
So is it time you accepted your craving of bigger things, your ambitions? To see where they take you?
Can you frame them as service and bring others along too?
Can you choose to believe there is enough for us all and that it's ultimately not a competition? (This really helps with not slipping into assholery).
Imagine what would happen if we all reached for the stars, together, for ourselves and each other?
Go get 'em, tiger and please share this post to bring everyone along with you!
P.S. Melbournians! If you've been looking for a chance to Revive your mind and body, join me and Chafia Brooks, dancer and dance therapist to help you work through fear and achieve your goals, as well as to get back in touch with your body! Click here for more details. Places are limited, so book now. No dance skills needed and no solos ;)
P.P.S. Canberrans! Save the date, I'm coming to you on the 15th October for a beautiful two hour workshop on overcoming fear and making and achieving big goals!
Hi, I'm Dr Lara Corr, life coach and researcher in work and wellbeing. I coach successful 30 and 40 somethings who want more fulfilling or bigger careers but doubt themselves and their options. I help them get out of their own way, find direction and go for what they really want.