In the pursuit of ambition, you can end up sacrificing more than you may care to admit.
You can end up losing your inherent sense of curiosity and gratitude for life.
As you wear yourself down, a perpetual angst can begin to slowly eat away at your core. You still haven’t quite made the mark yet, it’s never enough. You continue to push yourself, both mentally and emotionally — perhaps even beyond the breaking point.
This is a pattern that’s playing itself out more than ever in the world today. Greed and narcissism are being sold as noble ambition — and many of us have taken the bait.
The Story of the Frog
In our overambitious strive to better our lives, we slowly raise the temperature — like a frog who gets boiled in a pot of water so slowly he doesn’t end up realizing things are getting steamy.
Unlike the frog, if we’re lucky, we might realize something’s wrong before it’s too late.
We’ll notice we no longer enjoy our own company, and that we live with chronic tension and anxiety.
We’re not as fun to be around. How could we be fun to be around? We’ve made our ambition our god. Counter-intuitively we’ve boxed ourselves into a strict role in our lives.
“A great destiny is a great slavery” — Seneca.
We may tell ourselves: “things will get better when I reach my ultimate aim.” We continue to promise ourselves a future carrot when all we’re really doing is distancing ourselves from a truer connection with life.
How can we temper our ambition so that it adds meaning to our life instead of psychological torment? How can we prevent our ambition from debasing our gratitude for the present?
“The road to hell is paved with good intentions” — Saint Bernard of Clairvaux (1091–1153).
Overambition is the Thief of the Love For The Moment and Life Itself
Definition of Overambition: a state of self-induced attachment to an aim that serves to turn the present moment into nothing more than a cheap stepping stone.
Definition of Healthy Ambition: Approaching life with intentions that elevate both your present and future.
We have to be more suspicious of our ambitious desires, for they can quite literally end up harming our only link to life (the present moment).
In medical terms, there’s a word that I’ve been thinking about for months on end because of its implications. The word is: ‘iatrogenic’ — an adjective that refers to giving a patient medicine even when he’s healed, and as a result of doing so, causing harm and even death.
As the healers of our own lives, where are we pursuing good, but creating harm?
The Result of Becoming Overambitious?
Since you live on a narrow path you become narrow-minded. You may stop:
- Spending time with people you care about
- Having positive self-talk
- Thinking about how your actions influence other people
- Letting your mind wander and relax
Everything becomes about your goal. Quite simply you become a narcissistic individualist. You forget that it’s the connection that you cultivate with the core of who you are that’s primordial.
“They have forgotten how to communicate, they have forgotten the niceties of life, they have forgotten to inquire about each other, simply because work is the great god.” — Michael George Reccia.
Questions to Help You Determine if you’re Overambitious
- Is there something from your past that you’re running from?
- Are you trying to impress someone or the world into loving you?
- Can you be self-loving and kind to yourself despite your ambition?
- Do you smile daily? Or do you have a permanent scowl?
- Are you able to have at least ten seconds in your day where not a single thought passes through your mind?
Notice the feeling you feel after reading each question. Some will produce a contraction, while others will produce an expansion. Listen to that feeling…
Orient yourself Toward the Process
Formula 1 drivers don’t think when they’re driving — they are deeply in the present moment.
Elite football players aren’t thinking about which skill to perform — they just instinctively know what to do.
Top musicians lose themselves in the symphony of their music.
The skill of bringing flow into your life will give you the greatest amount of prolonged and consistent satisfaction.
In that sense, ‘success’ is a misnomer, for it implies a static destination. But you can be both successful, and unsuccessful at different things. We don’t live in a world with some successful people, and some unsuccessful people, as some might think.
The world is far too complex to designate people into two labels.
But what’s for sure is that we live in a world where some people are experiencing more meaningful, creative engagement with their careers than others. And counterintuively the people who see success within a static frame, aren’t experiencing this state of flow as much as the people who value the process of living as opposed to the outcome of living.
At the moment, I’m typing this away on my laptop, and I could approach the art of writing this piece in two different ways.
- I must write x amount of words, and impact x amount of people (classic example of an iatrogenic that completely depreciates my intrinsic state of flow). By method of attempting to reach a goal, I’ve made my life worse. I feel more serious, and writing this article becomes an obligation instead of a gift.
- Or, I could look at it the following way: I want to spend time writing today. I will end up becoming better at the craft while I help people along the way. (Still a goal, but it’s less ambitious). Yet conversely, it produces a better article that has a better chance of impacting people, and I feel a damn whole lot better along the way.
Less is more.
This is why the people who have the generic and grandiose, overambitious aims to influence x number of people’s lives or to make millions of dollars are looking at life the wrong way round.
But they wouldn’t tell you that.
Upgrade Your Reading
Bring impactful reading into your life with Growth Notes – a service designed to extract and explore key gems of wisdom for your life’s benefit.
GET THE BOOK BY
Erin shows overscheduled, overwhelmed women how to do less so that they can achieve more. Traditional productivity books—written by men—barely touch the tangle of cultural pressures that women feel when facing down a to-do list. How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.