When I first opened my Facebook account, my feed was instantly filled with friends and acquaintances posting images of their lavish trips abroad. However, life is not one extended holiday, and so gradually my feed filled with people boasting ‘busyness’ (read busy-ness, not business). The pictures of perfect pedicures and strolls at sunset were traded up for ‘management moans’ and treacherous to-do lists.
I am a full-time university student, who works part-time – I’ve been there! Juggling assignments and exams, lesson plans and tutoring, volunteering, housework and chores, etc. While every now and again we are all tempted to indulge in a little self-pity, not everyone is interested in hearing about it.
I have found my audience are either in – or have been in – the same boat as me (in my case, my fellow university students are experiencing the same pressures as I am) or they are not, in which case they may be able to sympathise but not to advise. Either way, complaining seems pointless.
And yet, I have sat around many a dinner table where the competition is fierce. One’s complaints are met with another saying “if you think that’s bad, you should have had my day!” Or “you’ve no idea how easy you have it!” Truthfully though, these conversations are often futile. We all have our own schedules, which may become hectic at times (and some times are longer than others), our own stressors, and personal circumstances which may make us feel more or less able to handle the tasks of our everyday lives.
If you have chosen to undertake the commitments you have, you are either able to handle them – in which case complaining is senseless – or not, in which case, there is nothing wrong with reconsidering how much of your time you commit and what you are committing to. Do those you commit to appreciate how much time you give to them?
Is there such thing as too much or not enough ambition?
“Ambition: 1) a strong wish to achieve something. 2) a strong wish to be successful, powerful, rich, etc.” (Cambridge Dictionary, 2018)
Up until recently, I was under the very misguided impression that people must aspire to move up the food chain in their chosen field, without limit. People who lacked this internal push or seemed to plateau professionally were, in my mind, less fortunate than I.
According to Encyclopaedia Brittanica (2018), Egocentrism is the “cognitive shortcomings that underlie the failure, in both children and adults, to recognize the idiosyncratic nature of one’s knowledge or the subjective nature of one’s perceptions.”
I’d dare say there is nothing more humbling than realising how humble you have failed to be. I now know that I was wrong. It is not only acceptable to be happy with what you have but encouraged! To have reached a point where you are professionally satisfied is a gift, and in this day and age, a rare gift at that!
Equally, there is nothing wrong with having a drive to keep going, achieve more, do better. Obviously everything has its limits though.
So when does ‘just the right amount of ambition’ become ‘too much ambition’? There is no hard and fast rule, but I decided to draw the line at what I felt was an appropriate work/life balance (and based on how many times I came home complaining about the day I’d had).
The measure of ‘optimum ambition’ is clearly a personal one, but this is where I revert to my original statement. Before making a commitment, deciding to give time, energy, and efforts towards a goal, perhaps consider whether you are able to give what the task demands, or whether you will be subjecting others to endless ‘busy-ness bragging’!
Ambition – what is the point?
This is the greatest question and perhaps one I should have started with rather than left towards the end.
By concentrating on an end-goal, someone is far more likely to achieve that goal than if they look upon the tasks required for the goal in individual vacuums. However, when addressing an end-goal as a motivator, and ambition as a regulator, the importance of the achievement can be lost. If we don’t take the time to appreciate our own dedication, hard work, and the output we produce, we miss out on the final purpose that our ambitions should be driving to – happiness. Instead, we can find ourselves juggling lots of different projects, and hopping from one achievement to another without pausing to reflect on the good and bad in our last experience (which enables us to improve our performance in future projects).
Therefore, one of the questions I have started asking myself before committing to a new project is whether that will feed my ultimate goal (career progression/professional satisfaction/personal satisfaction) or whether I am taking it on to ease someone else’s load, or worse ‘just because’ with no real reason.
With my second year of university finished, I may be inclined to slack off until mid-September. It could be quite nice to sunbathe all morning, nap from noon onwards, and avoid responsibilities like the plague.
However, instead, I am using this opportunity to manage all my other commitments better. This summer, I will commence my dissertation research, take my diploma examinations, and complete a number of personal projects.
Essentially, ambition and projects are all about balance. There’s no such thing as too much or too little ambition if you balance your priorities effectively.