I would like to unpack two words that have been a topic of discussion with the people closest to me: Ambition and Contentment. In a world where we are taught to push for the limits and never give up on our ambitions, I have been placed in a position to consider contentment just as important. Still the question was posed to me: Can they co-exist? So I went ahead and looked up the definition of both.
a strong desire to do or to achieve something, typically requiring determination and hard work.
a desire and determination to achieve success.
a state of happiness and satisfaction.
When I read the description for both words I noticed something obvious: they are not antinomies; meaning that one doesn’t negate the other. And as I looked inward I found that to be true. I mean, I’m pretty ambitious but I’ve often found myself content with life. Ultimately, anyone can live with both ambition and contentment but it is a balancing act and it is not always easy. I believe the best way to balance both is to first check, Where am I headed?
How do you define success?
This can be an intriguing question. Defining success can be a challenge and it is shaped differently for each person. Still, understanding what success looks like allows me to know where I’m headed. It’s a reminder to check the map; to review intentions; to see if my actions are getting me closer to where I want to be. This is true for an individual or an organization. At work we create mission statements and visions. We should do the same individually and with our families. Where we want to be is just as important as how we get there. Defining success for yourself is a good start!
I look at ambition as fuel. Fuel, ideas running through my mind at odd hours of the night, hopeful to see my project come to fruition. But it is also what reminds me to reconnect with my family and build memories that last. It all depends on your goals for life. Ambition is healthy when based on pure motives. Ambition is not greed. Ambition is a never-ceasing attitude that helps you achieve your goals.
I see contentment as a mile marker. These are checkpoints that remind you of how far you’ve come. It’s a great way to check on the progress you’ve made. Like ambition, contentment is an attitude connected with your motives. Contentment is not apathy. Contentment smiles back at you, sometimes reminding you that your goals don’t need to match that of others.
I believe both ambition and contentment can co-exist. I’m ambitious to grow in my career, but I’m content with how I’ve been impactful in each of my professional roles. I’m ambitious to provide financially for my family, but I’m content with how I’ve contributed to meet their needs.
I don’t want people to think this is easy because it is not. So many times I kick myself because I want more out of life: a bigger house, a nicer car, more money. I don’t think I’m alone with these feelings. Still, what I’ve noticed is that these feelings only come up when I compare myself with others. Their house. Their car. This is where contentment can ground us. In many cases it provides a reality check.
I consider contentment to be fundamental in recognizing the blessings around me. It is that mile marker that allows me to recognize how far along I’ve come in my journey. And success for me is being a leader at work and present at home. So I might not always boast the largest paycheck. In choosing to be present I’m fulfilling something that money can’t buy; spiritual and emotional leadership for my family.
What do you think? Can ambition and contentment co-exist?