Rethinking Ambition

It is strange how things, before I write about them, form a recurring pattern of contradiction. The contradiction often triggers my interest and get the researcher in me going.

Recently, a young mum, whom I respect and admire very much, when I asked her about the jobs she held before becoming full time mum, said that she is not very ambitious. Almost apologising for the absence of further study and qualifications in her life.

This week another mum asked me how I teach my children ambition? This was asked after a lengthy conversation regarding their perceived absence of ambition amongst the youth.

Now the question: Since when did qualifications and climbing the corporate ladder become the synonyms for ambition? As if I, who prefer to stay at home with my boys and educate them, lack ambition, simply because I chose not to pursue a career in the more corporate world anymore.

Ambition is defined as the strong desire to achieve something. It is an aspiration, intention, goal, aim, objective, purpose, intent, plan, scheme, mission, calling, vocation, desire, wish, design, target, end, dream, hope. It also means, drive, determination, desire, enterprise, initiative, eagerness, motivation, enthusiasm, zeal, commitment, a sense of purpose, longing, yearning, hangkering. (The Thesaurus)

The antonyms of ambitions are apathy, aversion, disgust, dislike, distaste, hate, hatred, idleness, inactivity, indifference, lethargy, repulsion disinterest, pessimism, satisfaction. (Also the Thesaurus)

With all respect to both of the mums who talked about ambition, “Girls, you got it wrong.”

To the mum who thought she had no ambition because she has not obtained any qualifications, “You have ambition in buckets, chick. I know you. You have a calling of being an extra-ordinary mother to your two beautiful children, and you have a desire to be a good wife. In you I sense a deep seated sense of purpose that resonate in the quiet and very calm demeanour that you portray. I see you as having a very intentional and mindful way of living, having a passion for people around you and loving unconditionally.

You are incredibly ambitious my dear friend, you may not think so, but you have achieved much in your life, and you are destined for greatness.”

To the mum who asked how I teach ambition to my children, “I do not know. I look at the synonyms for ambition and I think that you are born with it, for all of us have a dream that we will be chasing some time in our lives. A baby chases the dream of the first independent step, the toddler has a plan of getting himself up to the tap so that he can brush his own teeth. The pre-primary child is determined to hold on to a pencil and write his own name. Most children, in fact all children, want to learn things that excite them. They want to grow, they want to develop. With the correct guidance from their parents, teachers, mentors, they will hopefully pursue a dream of contribution to society and not one of destructing it. Yes, I think we are born with ambition, you do not need to be taught ambition. I do hope we will understand that and learn what it is that make our kids tick… or ourselves for that matter.”

Have a look at the antonyms for ambition, and especially at ‘satisfaction’. Would satisfaction be the absence of ambition? Would it be the achievement of the goal?

I think the following people understood what it means to be ambitious –

“The desire to reach for the stars is ambitious. The desire to reach hearts is wise.”
― Maya Angelou

“All people dream, but not equally.
Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their mind, wake in the
morning to find that it was vanity. But the dreamers of the day are dangerous
people, For they dream their dreams with open eyes, And make them come
― D.H. Lawrence

“At the age of six I wanted to be a cook. At seven I wanted to be Napoleon. And my ambition has been growing steadily ever since.”
― Salvador Dalí

“Find a purpose to serve, not a lifestyle to live.”
― Criss Jami, Venus in Arms

“People will kill you. Over time. They will shave out every last morsel of fun in you with little, harmless sounding phrases that people uses every day, like: ‘Be realistic!'”
[What It Is (2009)]
― Dylan Moran

I am trying to teach my boys that anything is possible, that the high way is not necessarily the best way or the only way, and that the detours we take while on the other ways, often times bring delightful surprises, if we are willing to say, “How fascinating!” instead of “How boring!”

I believe ambition is part of every single human being. Some lose it… how very, very sad… not being able to dream with your eyes wide open.

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