Ambition vs Happiness

Is it possible to be both Ambitious and Happy? The answer of course is YES. Achieving this desired state however is, I believe, difficult.

In modern day life we are constantly surrounded by images on TV, Social Media, in magazines and advertising of successful people we aspire to be like. I don’t think this is a bad thing. Often it is what inspires us to try harder and helps us to believe our goals are possible. The negative side is that inevitably we compare our current position to theirs and for most of us, this highlights what we are lacking.

In this way being ambitious make us unhappy.

Recently I’ve been reading a lot of ‘How to’ ebooks and websites. No matter the subject matter, whether it is how to; get fitter, ride faster, writer better, be more creative or run your own business they all seem to believe there are 30 hours in a day and that I want to work all of them. They make me think if I dont want to work all the hours God sends I must be a ┬áslacker or I don’t want it enough. This isn’t just me being sensitive here’s an example –

This is what we are led to believe is the only way it can be. I say No!

My point here being that the danger with being ambitious is letting it take over your whole life. Many mistake their success in life for their worth, they judge their happiness by how much they have achieved, this leads to a lot of very unhappy people. Success shouldn’t come at the expense of all other things. When you finally achieve your goals and find yourself standing on the podium or in your new office or house or just admiring your fat bank balance and you look around to find yourself alone, exhausted and stressed out, how hollow will that achievement feel? Was all that single minded drive, the hours of hard work even worth it. Not at that cost in my mind.

Yet Ambition IS an important part of what makes us, as humans, a dominant species. It is the ability to think, decide, plan and then determinedly pursue our goals that sets us apart. Without ambition we are unlikely to push ourselves to fulfill our true potential. The feeling of pride and satisfaction you get from succeeding in something you worked really hard for is hard to beat.

At the end of my first Marathon

So, how then do we attain this mythical perfect life balance? I for one am certainly no shining example of perfection on the matter but it is something I have thought about and researched a lot. Here are a few pointers I’ve accumulated that other may find helpful.

  • Self impose time limits. For example, after 8pm is relaxing time. Sundays are family/friends day. If 1 whole day is too much to spare use 2 following on half days such as Saturday PM, Sunday AM. Make this a regular habit and think of it as a ‘sacred’ time from which thoughts and stress concerning work, training or any outside pressures are banished.
  • Prioritise loved ones. Family, partners and friends who support you deserve that.
  • Fresh air and exercise are the greatest cures for stress. Do not forget this one even if your ambition is racing and you already do a lot of your training outside. Take time to go for a walk, sit in the sun with a book or chill in a beer garden with a friend just relaxing. The important thing is that you detach your brain from the cause of the stress and be in the moment to enjoy it.
  • Define for yourself what exactly your ambition is and why it is so important to you. Be sure it is in fact what you want and not what society pressures dictate you should.
  • Break down your ambition into smaller step by step goals that will inch you towards the end aim. This can make any seemingly insurmountable task feel less daunting. Rome wasn’t built in a day and all that.

Make time to stop and enjoy the little things

Lastly acknowledge that life is fragile. Material possessions are expendable. You will make mistakes. Forces outside your control will mess things up. Do not become so fixated on the future that you forget to have fun in the present. Make time regularly for the things that make you smile. Life is made up of many memories not just the one where you achieve your end goal.

Ambition and Happiness can both exist in our lives, so long as we remember that both are of equal importance.