Ambition: Is it a Business Blessing or a False God? Women Weigh In

Ambition has been bothering me lately. Some mornings, ambition catapults me out of bed and gets me excited about the work ahead. When my heart is light in my chest and I can’t stop thinking about the future’s potential, ambition is there fueling the fire.

Ambition also comes with a wicked hangover. Striving for success inevitably leaves me irritable. I start to miss those delicious moments of awareness when I’m free to just exist and be myself. Without them, life feels hollow.

But the business world LOVES ambition! The more ambition you have, the more you earn! And the more you earn, the more stuff you can buy! And we all know the kid with the most toys wins!

Is it wrong to want success and a balanced life? Do these two desires always have to be at odds?

I still haven’t figured it out, so I posed the question to readers of my e-mail newsletter, who always have such good advice. Here’s what they had to say:

I think it lies in the definition. I define ambition as having a vision with a plan to get there that you are actively working on. As opposed to, say, ‘I want to be a writer’ and yet you know nothing of the markets, how to get an agent, and haven’t written more than a few paragraphs. You just like to talk about it. Ego is when you say you are great when there’s nothing to back that up. And neither one of them should interfere with a balanced life. You draw your plan up to involve working 5 days a week with weekends off. <grin>

—Julie

Seems to me we all need to define for ourselves what ‘success’ means for us, personally. I know mine is vastly different than other artists — they might even consider me ‘lazy.’ But a series of recent deaths of those close to me has only reinforced my ideas of what I want for myself and just how much energy I am willing to expend in that direction.”

—Joyce

“Without balance, success is empty! Turning 50 has given me such a different perspective on life. I’ve had a design licensing business for 23 yrs which was financially successful but I gave up my life as a mom, wife, and FUN became a foreign word! My creative flame became almost distinguished because the money was driving the brush which caused my true style to get fuzzy and then lost. I stopped creating and with it temporarily lost a part of my soul.

Being the optimist I am, I opened my heart to see what new venture presented itself. A very new and different direction combining my design background with a business appeared: a general custom frame shop. It’s been five years and the business is successful due to my great ambition but there is no balance!

Now, I’ve recognized that to live a true life, I need to sell the frame shop and get back to a creative life. I’m in the process of crafting a new business using all the new skills I’ve gained having the frame shop and then combining it with my creativity. The world of social networking is very new and exciting. I love reading blogs like yours as you all are my new teachers.

Today, there is so much opportunity to pursue your dreams and live any life you can imagine. Balance is the most important ingredient. Success is not about money & having stuff, it is about the connection we have with ourselves, with people, and the world!

—Coco

“Interesting conundrum and one I’ve been wondering about – fighting the ‘come hither’ temptations strewn in my path to (frankly) boast about my achievements and follow the crowd which is making the loudest noise. Feeling miserable and helpless that I’m not leading the pack. I’ve had quite a lot on my plate in recent years and I really need an absolute break but what might I miss out on!?

I think I’m going to follow the quieter path. I’ve nothing to prove. I’ve made it to the top. All that beckons is more of the same. It seems that all I can do is fail if there’s nothing more to achieve. But can I afford financially to let go and find a new challenge? (Can I afford not to?)”

—Sue

“Last year, encouraged by the urging and support of friends and family, I was ambitious enough to try and make a living as an artist! I chose the wrong time (economically) to venture out, marketed my head off and had very limited success. I felt a bit like a hamster on a treadmill, running in ever-decreasing circles. I spent a good part of the day online, marketing my head off, paying for online shops that I marketed, etc. etc. I was making art aimed at the market I thought I had, not art that satisfied me…

I stopped all that at the end of the year. This year I received my first commission cheque from the local gallery that shows and sells art for me; I have 3 part-time jobs which keep me working 7 days a week during the summer; I volunteer at two places on Mondays and I go to teacher training classes on Wednesday evenings too!

I think that I was blinded by ambition last year, and am working through it this year – making hay while the sun shines, metaphorically. We live in a seasonal coastal resort, so I have time for me, my family and more art in the winter months.

That’s my take on ambition – it’s not for me, not any more!”

—Rosie

“I feel I’m in a constant tug of war between wanting to build my small business, while working a full time job, and finding time to just do the simplest things I enjoy. Meanwhile I’m so exhausted from everything that by the weekend I barely can pull myself out of bed to get a pedicure!

Balance is so rare. For me it depends on the time of year, what’s going on at work, and what’s also taking place in my personal life … and other times even when things are super crazy-that’s when I have to force some downtime for myself, even if it’s taking a ‘mental day’ from my job.”

—Risa

“Change ambition to passion.  If you are passionate about what you are doing and you are helping someone, the universe will support you.  With passion, it is not about the ego.  It is about believing in what you are doing for the good of yourself and others.

Sometimes with ambition you trample on others.  With passion, you feel that what you are doing has meaning and you don’t take advantage of others to get what you want.  With passion you will notice life’s pleasures and you will feel good at the end of the day.”

—Lisa

How do you balance ambition with other desires? Let me know in the comments section below – and be sure to subscribe to the twice-monthly newsletter for more great resources and opportunities to contribute to future blog posts! Sign up for free by entering your email address in the box in the right-hand sidebar.

2 Responses to Ambition: Is it a Business Blessing or a False God? Women Weigh In

  • Kathleen says:

    I agree with Lisa – spend your time doing something you are passionate about and success will follow. I too play the balancing game – full time job to pay the bills and provide health insurance – squeezing in quiet time to follow my passion for writing – and spending time with my son, family and friends. All in all life is good. But I look forward to the day when my passion can support me and I can say goodbye to the bondage of corporate America.

  • Kathy Murray says:

    I love this post! It comes at a time when I'm trying to find that balance as well. I can relate a lot to Coco who says her attitude changed after 50, as that's the milestone I passed this year as well. Am finding I'm more comfortable with a slower burning fire these days, that allows me to savor things like family, my kids and pursuits I can't automatically monetize or promote. It's not that my ambition's gone, but my need to prove myself to the wider world isn't as strong as it used to be, which is maybe why I feel more creative than I've felt in years. I think the work and writing I'm doing now reflects that.

    Kathy

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