Staying ambitious is really important. It helps us achieve our goals and dreams in life. It helps us utilise our potential and not waste our talents. But the problem comes when we become hyper-focused on our ambitions and become their slave. I know that feeling because I have been a slave to my ambitions for as long as I can remember- just like anybody else. We should not complain about our ambitious personalities- it’s a big part of who we are as individuals on this earth that inhabits approximately 8 billion people. Nonetheless, we all pay a big price and we should not keep paying anymore.
Do we ever ask ourselves what make us happy in our personal lives? (I am not talking about professional lives and it’s so sad that we have become conditioned to think of happiness with respect to our professional careers). Maybe I can help if you’re struggling. What makes me happy are these things: books, writing, going out in nature, meeting people for coffee and having nice and long conversations, watching birds, thinking, and I make sure I take some time out for the things that prevent me from becoming a machine. Would a car, a house, and savings in my bank account make me happy? Absolutely, why not. These are life’s necessities and I can’t be a philosopher if I am struggling with money and a comfortable place to live in. But I still believe there is so much to life and there is so much that we do not see even when it’s right infront of us. As David Foster Wallace said in his famous commencement speech “This is water” that the things in life that matter, we never really observe them as we remain occupied with the trivial stuff of life.
It’s true that some people have extraordinary circumstances and I am not going to pretend that I know anything about their lives. But the basic idea behind this blog is simply to share a very important lesson that I have learned only recently: THERE IS SO MUCH TO LIFE. Yes, there will always be periods of setbacks, failures and disappointments, and it’s completely okay. I face them all the time just like anybody else. However, I still try my best to look at life more than my ambitions and social status. I want to do good things in life (career wise and otherwise) but I don’t want to do them just so I can impress people. I want to do them because I love and enjoy doing those things. And I definitely don’t want to be a slave to my ambitions. I want my ambitions to help me grow and get better. That’s all!
This post might just change your life. But more importantly, I want it to change mine. In other words, you can say out loud that I am writing this short essay for me.
Every moment of our lives we are striving for more. We want more achievements, more money, more friends, more social approvals, more gadgets, etc. It seems like ‘more’ is guiding our lives. We do not take a pause, look around and think if everything we have is enough. We are always competing: competing with our former selves is a good thing (but it should be done in moderation too) while keeping an unhealthy competition with others is an invitation to self destruction and no self satisfaction. Nothing is ever enough for us. You might assume contentment equals no progress. I disagree. Being content in life provides a stronger platform to get closer to our goals and dreams. People who are content in life find better ways to pursue new goals.
Wrong:Contentment= No progress
Right: Contentment= Better progress
My elder sister is a successful woman. She has a stable job which she enjoys a lot. Recently, she has purchased a car. These are considered to be the measures of success; just to name a few. I have attributed her success with her salary and possessions. They are the external measures of success and they matter. But she has a quality that I believe can be referred to as her “internal” measure of success. I will call it “the art of being enough”. My sister is ambitious. She knows what she wants in her life and then she goes after it. That’s how we all approach our lives too, right?
I don’t think so.
What sets her apart from the many people I have met is her ability to stay content. Her ambitions are loud but they are not loud enough to keep her dissatisfied with her accomplishments and life overall. She is not trying to do ‘everything’. She does ‘something’ and she gives her best in that. She knows when things get ‘enough’ for her. I admire such people.
I often talk about gratitude in my blog posts not because it looks cooler but because I personally believe how important it is to be grateful in life. Few years ago I would say I wasn’t a grateful person. But that changed with time. Now I say it out loud that I am a grateful person and whenever life throws mud at me I try to remind myself of all the things I have. Still, I have this constant feeling like something is missing. I could say it is because I am an over ambitious person. Also, I am very competitive (please bear in mind that I try my best to keep a healthy competition). For the past few days I have been wondering about it and it crossed my mind how I can learn a simple skill of being satisfied and content from my sister.
Why so serious? It’s just life
I have always been serious in life and my sister has always been jolly and carefree. That way she enjoys her life.
Does it mean she is not an accomplished person? Does it mean she has no bigger goals and aspirations? NO. She is a very successful person not only because she is well educated, she has a car, a place to live and other essentials but also because she practices an art of being enough. She strives for more and better things in life but at the same time she knows when and how to put a full stop to her desires. She prioritizes experiences and having diverse experiences in life makes life more worthy.
Seriously, it’s only life. Why be so serious???
Ambitions can be a double edged sword
I know well enough the cost of being over ambitious. There have been profits, not going to deny that. But I have bear losses too. And those losses are realized only when it gets too late. I believe we must all have higher goals in life. Having bigger goals motivate us to realize our potential. Taking risks alongside is crucial too because without risks nothing changes; not even our circumstances. If there is no contentment everything seems futile. There shall be zero satisfaction.
Is it a good life? A life where we have almost everything yet we tell ourselves we have nothing? I know that’s a difficult question because at the end of each day we want more. That’s a harsh reality. Even though it is a harsh reality should we just let ourselves suffer? Probably not.
Practice the art of being enough
It is not easy to go against our pre-wired biological mechanisms. It is not easy to go against our own human psychology. But that doesn’t or shouldn’t mean we don’t make changes.
Like my sister, I am trying to stay content in life. I plan things out. I imagine my future and try work accordingly. I keep higher goals for myself. In the midst of all this, I tell myself whatever I have right now is enough. With that little dialogue with me I start believing not only what I have is enough but I am enough too. When we start believing that we are enough we are much happier. That further motivates us to go one step further and further and so on and so forth. If only I am ungrateful for everything that I have do you really think I will be motivated enough to take a leap of faith and go for another goal? I will only be stuck with self-loathing and self-loathing is always our foe.
There are no limits to human desires and that’s the fundamental cause of our suffering according to Buddhist philosophy. I don’t think our goal is to eliminate our desires and become void beings. Contrary to that ,our goal should be to keep our desires in check and whenever we get a signal that our desires are getting out of control we should take a pause and reflect.