How does one balance the ideas of (1) ambition and (2) being happy with what you have? (Think Hamilton’s “never being satisfied” vs Eliza’s wanting their home life to be “enough?”) I believe that gratitude and ambition are not mutually exclusive, and yet I have a hard time getting them to coexist in my head. When I feel ambitious I feel guilty and ungrateful, and when I feel content with what I have I feel lazy and uninspired. Any thoughts?
It depends on how you define ambition and the WHY behind it. If you are chasing your ambitions/goals because you feel they will give you a sense of worth and validation, then I can see how someone would struggle to be happy because your very goals are the things that are telling you you're not good enough.
We all have an innate desire to improve, grow, and progress. Ambition can be a very good thing! But, not when our personal value depends on achieving the goal.
To be happy with what you have, to me, is a matter of being confident and happy with who you really are and understanding the power of gratitude. We can find joy in who we are right now and what are lives look like, and live in a state of gratitude, while still having a desire to build on what we have, to experience new things, to broaden the list of things we are grateful for.
Contentment doesn't mean stalling or damning progression. It means, to me, that you have the ability to look at God at any moment and say, I really love me and my life. Thank you. It does not preclude our divine desire for more. That is the purpose of life--to become more, to experience more. You can do both if your focus is on love for yourself and the life God has given you while looking to Him and His will as you take chances, overcome fears, stumble at get back up again.
Some people love quiet lives. Some are driven to something different. Neither is inherently wrong if their lives are lived with love and fulfillment.
As I mentioned above, ambition is good--when it's coupled with honesty and awareness. I'll use the movie character PT Barnum as an example since I just saw the movie and am slightly obsessed with the music. He was creative, his mind and dreams always taking him to different places. And he was ambitious. But, in the end, we learn his ambitions were actually about validation of his worth and, in a way, revenge. In the movie, ambition clouded his vision.
Now, take someone like Mother Theresa. She was ambitious! She worked and served and sacrificed, yet, her focus was love and selflessness. She wasn't working toward a specific goal to feel successful. She worked hard to progress, serve, and make a difference.
You can totally be content and ambitious when you allow yourself to love yourself and your life, understanding that the joy you feel can grow even more as you continue to grow. For some, growth comes as they remain consistent in the circumstances they love. For others, growth and joy come other more ambitious ways. Neither is wrong if love, gratitude, and honesty are present, as well as clear picture of where your worth and happiness come from.
One other thing to keep in mind is personality. Some people are truly happy living alone in a cabin in Alaska. Others love adventure and change. Again, neither is wrong as long as our character is improving and we have love and gratitude in the forefront.
How do you deal with the judgments you receive from people who have more or less ambition than you do? What ideas do you have for responding to people who feel you aim too high or too low in life?
People's opinions about you actually speak more about them than you. That's the first thing I remember.
For those who express opinions you are aiming too high in life, consider what in their lives might cause them to feel that way. Is their concern out of fear or love or pride? Are they dissatisfied with their lives? Have they failed at what you're striving for? Will they feel "left behind" if you achieve your dreams? Perhaps their concern is out of love, and they really are concerned that your aspirations are damagingly high.
If they are a trusted loved one, then it might be wise to consider their input. Sometimes we can get caught up in our own dreams and not see the risk or ramifications. I think a humble seeking of their intent and a willingness to honestly listen to and consider valid concerns is not only smart but wise--especially if it is a spouse with whom you're to be equally yoked with, and have committed to walk next to in this life and the next. When personal dreams take precedence over the couple's dreams, it can lead into dangerous and divisive territory. (I will resist going into a tangent on the nuances of compromise and commitment here.)
For those who express thoughts that you are aiming too low, the first thing to do is the same as above: consider what in their lives might be causing them to feel that way, and if their concern in out of fear or love or pride.
What makes them feel entitled to judge where you are or dictate the direction of your life? Do they feel superior? Do they put value on worldly success or labels and assume if one's not aspiring to such they aren't rising to their potential? Or do they love you and see your potential and feel you can achieve more than you are? An honest introspection might find that your fears and insecurities are truly holding you back from the risk of growth and opportunity. Is there a chance they are right?
Their intention matters, as does yours.
If someone comes with unwanted advice, it's always okay to say, "Thank you for sharing your concern. I'll take that into consideration." You can also ask them questions to determine their motive and their place in life. If they are open to suggestions they should open to questions as well. If they are coming from a place of love, they will answer them.
Ultimately, what you do with your life is your choice. You have an obligation to your spouse to be as close to the same page as her, and, if your beliefs are such, you have the privilege of checking with God regarding your path in life. Everyone else, be polite, be grateful, be open, but own your choices and dreams.
Hi. I'm M.E.
Growing up my brothers called me a know-it-all. I wasn't. I just acted like it.
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