Is it really necessary to be ambitious to be considered a valuable individual within the social context? What if you are content with the life you’ve got (which might or mightn’t conform to the expectations/standards of those around you) and have no ambitions to be ˋsuccessful´ (as the term is generally understood) in order to change that life?
You might have certain passions which you aim to pursue, certain personal or professional goals you want to achieve, or you might just want to ˋdo something with yourself´. But you lack that specific drive and diligence that characterizes ambitiousness. You have no desire to reach the ˋtop´ (whatever that is; I believe it is a highly relative concept and the meaning of it varies from person to person).
So, what does that make you? A lazy, unmotivated person? Someone lacking passion, with no goals whatsoever? Someone who can’t answer the question,ˋwhere do you see yourself in the next ten or twenty years?´ (Ok, forget ten or twenty, I can’t even imagine where I’d be in five!)
Well, not being ambitious doesn’t necessarily make you all of the above, but I think most would agree that society in general, and the people around you in particular, often do make you think you are all of that.
How the pressure does you harm
It’s certainly a very hard place to be in: it makes you lose confidence in your abilities; you’ll find it very difficult to muster courage to experiment in and learn about the things you feel passionate about; you’d become crippled by fear of judgment and societal disapproval and that’d prevent you from developing new skills or upskilling; most of all, you’d be made to feel that you are not doing anything worthwhile if you are not part of the rat race, busy pushing and shoving your way through to the top (again, wherever that is).
Yes, you might not be ambitious but there are a lot of things that you ARE. So why not focus on that instead of feeling miserable for not being everything you are expected to be?
What you can do to fight
I feel that constant psychological pressure for being ambitious
– makes you unable to enjoy your day to day life, or fully partake in the life you have at home/with your family. The pressure to conform to the general idea of ambition and competitiveness makes you view your own life as slow-paced or, may be, not productive enough. When you think you ‘ought’ to be ambitious, you subconsciously start losing sight of what’s right next to you or start undervaluing it.
What to do:
Tell yourself to believe and bask in the warmth and wholesomeness of your ‘ordinary’ life as much you can, even if it apparently doesn’t seem to be taking you anywhere career-wise. Tell yourself it is completely okay if you feel content cherishing the life you have and don’t feel the need to change it. Trust me, it is a huge blessing to have this kind of view of the life you are living, even if that life seems to be lacking the elements that constitute the general idea of ‘success’.
– paralyzes you with fear of judgment or being ridiculed if you want to learn or experiment with something you have always been passionate about but couldn’t ever find the time, means, or courage to pursue. Since it’s your ‘passion’, it naturally implies you won’t be getting any monetary or social benefit out of it (or getting anywhere with it really), at least for a period of time. It might not even be your goal in pursuing that passion to begin with. Unless it’s going to produce some ‘tangible’ results that the soceity can guage by applying its established standards- and produce them fast- you know you won’t be able to talk about it confidently among the people in your social circle.
So many of us live our lives full of regret for not having learned so many things we had wanted to. These are the things we know would make us feel that sense of inner freedom- and the zeal and satisfaction that comes with doing something that both your mind and heart are into- like nothing else can.
And yet, all the while knowing that, we still remain frozen with fear, unable to take the first step. All because the rules of the ubiquitous rat race won’t consider pursuit of some random passion worthwhile.
What to do:
Allow yourself to see beyond the results (and beyond the accompanying fear of failure or judgment) and try and experiment with as many things as you want.
Tell yourself: ‘At some point later in life, I won’t even bother to remember the results I got; I’ll only be glad that I gave myself the opportunity to experience everything I wanted.’ (The highlighted words are important, and you know which one of those to focus on.) Imagining how your future self will view the current you does wonders for your will to initiate things that you’ve kept procrastinating about.
This is just my take on how the pressure to be ambitious impedes one’s personal growth alongwith the motivation to explore new horizons without feeling tied down by the fear of failure. All of this, of course, applies only to those who are content with the quality and pace of the life they are leading and don’t consider ambition vital for adding value to it.
I’m sure there are many other aspects and perspectives to the notions of ‘ambition’ and ‘success’. But I do want to add a few words by David W. Orr at the end that I came across the other day, and those few words, packed with wisdom, seemed to be giving voice to what I’ve always thought about the broadness of the term ‘success’, but could never find the right words to describe:
“The plain fact is that the planet does not need more successful people. But it does desperately need more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers, and lovers of every kind. It needs people who live well in their places. It needs people of moral courage willing to join the fight to make the world habitable and humane. And these qualities have little to do with success as we have defined it.”Ecological Literacy: Educating our Children for a Sustainable World
Your definition of success is the only measure. Your ambition is very subjective and invariably differs from others. And that’s ok. I do believe that society places too much value on money, and fancy sounding job titles. When we meet new people they always ask what we do job wise first. I try to counter that by asking how they know the host or what they think of the conference so far, etc.
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Yes, you’re right. And it’s not like one doesn’t have the right to be ambitious even in the sense it is generally understood if it works for them, but that shouldn’t be made the sole measure of a person’s value. As you said, an apparently ‘unambitious’ or ‘not-so-successful’ person might just have a different idea of ‘ambition’ and ‘success’ for themself.
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Beautifully expressed and very relatable. Sometimes it’s not just people asking us about – what next? But also us being conditioned into thinking that we need to do something or reach somewhere to be ‘happy’, because others around us are just running around. Instead we should try to count our blessings and be content in what we have or where we are. With my writing (which I hope to be more regular with), I am a master procrastinator so my key takeaway is: Imagining how your future self will view the current you does wonders for your will to initiate things that you’ve kept procrastinating about. Thanks for these wonderful words and for this meaningful post. 😊
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Absolutely! I read a quote somewhere that went something like, ‘if you are always tying your happiness with the day you achieve some particular goal or other, you’ll never be happy; if the present or the today can’t make you happy, nothing ever will, no matter what you accomplish.’ Hope we all can free ourselves from this endless cycle: pursuit of some faraway happiness and reseulting despair.
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