Sometimes ambition is a bitch. I often wonder if a life without ambition would be easier and happier. No stress from worrying about achievements. No fear of not being enough or creating enough during your life. No struggling to become more than you are right now. Instead, simply being happy with where you are with no need to achieve more or be better.
Without getting philosophical or playing devils advocate about what ambition is to other people, I’ll use the dictionary definition for the sake of this post. Ambition is defined as “a strong desire to do or to achieve something, typically requiring determination and hard work.”
I always viewed those who lacked ambition as lazy or ignorant. Maybe that’s accurate. Or maybe they are content with what they have. Maybe they don’t need anything more than what they have right now to be happy. It’s possible that people without ambition are able to be the most present and can enjoy life more than others who are working to be more in the future.
I met a guy in Costa Rica who seemed happier than most I know. He told me he had no savings and shared a small apartment with roommates. He didn’t own a car or any sort of transportation. He walked 15 minutes to work everyday from his little house in the jungle.
He had a menial job, from my perspective anyhow, working at the little hotel I was staying at. He manned the front desk and occasionally helped out at the hotel bar. To paint an accurate picture, the hotel had 8-10 rooms; the bar had 3 stools and 5-6 tables on an outdoor patio. It wasn’t like he was working at the Ritz-Carlton.
When I spoke with him he was cordial, funny, intelligent and easy to get along with. During our conversation we briefly discussed careers and aspirations. When I asked him what he would like to do with his life, he smiled and calmly said “this, why would I want to do anything else with my life. I have a roof over my head, food to eat and people to share my life with.” Part of me judged him as being unrealistic and full of shit for giving me that answer. While another part of me was insanely jealous because his answer seemed genuine.
Ambition can, at times, be the root of all my suffering. Wanting to be more, achieve more, make more. The constant feeling of needing to work harder to be better. Being a Type A personality, it’s ingrained in my default setting.
However, ambition can also be the driving force of most of my happiness. The feeling of making progress in life and bettering myself may be the most addictive drug in the world. However, too often I allow my happiness and contentment to depend on that feeling. Needing to always be more can leave me feeling incomplete and dissatisfied with my life.
I struggle to relax and take time off. I shame myself and feel guilty when I’m not creating. I tell myself I’ve wasted my day if I haven’t accomplished certain things. I worry about my net worth and calculate what I have to ensure it’s up to my acceptable standards. I stress out over how much my company is producing in sales for the month. I feel the need to rush success, which keeps me from enjoying the little victories. It’s a shitty way to live.
I choose to stay in the rat race and chase material wealth that never made me happy. However, it has made my life more comfortable by providing me with financial freedom . I’d be lying if I didn’t acknowledge that as a truth in my experience.
I used to believe living a simpler life and working a safe, stable job with a steady paycheck was a cop out. I told myself that was “giving up” out of fear of failing at having my own businesses. Now I work long hours, drive myself crazy over sales growth and make less than I ever have before. It lets me keep up appearances of the financial success I once had. Unfortunately, that’s what I have put emphasis on in my life. Having shit I really don’t need to make others think I’m better off than How I view myself.
I’m starting to believe the path of “ambition” I have chosen based on financial success is the true cop out. It’s a life based out of fear, at least in my case. Fear of not having material things and wanting more in the future. I want to be financially successful because I’ve been lead to believe that is how life should be lived.
I have a lot of lofty dreams. I often wonder, if I don’t achieve them, will I look at my life as a failure? I equate ambition to financial success, that’s where I have it wrong.
I’m not sure if my Costa Rican friend had it right, but I’m pretty sure I have it wrong when it comes to ambition. I may have never stopped to think about this if I hadn’t had a 10 minute conversation with someone whose life and values were much different than mine.