And how will you get there…
Ambition or whole-heartedness. There are people (most of the people I know) who find ambition to be an admirable, if not full-out necessary quality to succeed in life. I am one of them. Others find it corrupt. But I would argue, that anything, including love, is corrupt in the wrong hands.
That being said, the challenge with ambition is that it has a ravenous appetite. Hungry all the time. Wants to do more and more and more to accomplish the dream. And a lot of people, especially in this overachieving part of the world we live in, feed the ambition pet– a lot.
And because these pets can be rewardingly, disturbingly unpredictable, it’s usually best to get a few pets. In some cases, a pet farm would not seem unreasonable. And why not? After all, isn’t ambition in the name of dreams admirable.
It just requires dedication, strategic focus and knowing how to ask the right questions.
How can I increase efficiency to optimize productivity?
Reduce, reduce, reduce. I have boiled breakfast down to an RX bar, ¼ cup almonds and three fistfuls of raw spinach. I wrap up the leaves tightly and down them au naturelle. No added time necessary for dressing, dipping or cooking. I can stuff it all into baggies and eat on the fly if necessary. I am low maintenance and high health (as long as we have these exact ingredients).
Discipline and drive trump distraction.
And donuts are most definitely a distraction. As are waffles, croissants, French toast– even the egg white omelet, in all its apparent innocence, is a bit distracting because there is always the question of cheese, even if it’s just feta. But don’t you really deserve gruyere. Haven’t you earned that two-dollar add-on of joy.
Unfortunately, joy is the ultimate distraction. It invites you to linger longer over coffee, go flower-shopping, play scrabble with your children, go for a beach walk with your husband. Pretty much anything BUT attend to your very hungry ambition pet.
Don’t get me wrong. I am a big fan of joy.
As a goal for weddings, births, select holidays, Saturday nights and the occasional Sunday brunch, joy is darn good approach. But, as a daily practice, it seems to be a pretty big time-suck and has a high propensity to degrade quickly into a life of slovenly, sloth-like mediocrity.
The only teensy tiny problem with paying attention to ambition over joy, is that it fosters a chronic low-grade intolerance for anything that does not translate into increased productivity. It facilitates spiking anxiety, bouts of depression and a general undercurrent of impatience.
And that expectation spills over into all the relationships around you.
For example, let’s say your husband wakes up in the middle of the night: Is it smarter to edit his presentation due the next day or watch back-to-back documentaries?
Or hypothetically your youngest son is late for the bus: Is it better to tide-stick his sneakers or find his coat? Or maybe your oldest son wants to make varsity lacrosse: Is it smarter to eat waffles or eggs and a protein shake?
What makes sense and what makes happiness are often not in alignment. And if the priority is making sense, it can unintentionally disconnect you from yourself. Make you lose track of what you love in order to accomplish what you desire.
This is where whole-heartedness comes into play.
Ambition focuses on a measurable outcome. Whole-heartedness focuses on the quality of the experience. Will I hit 15 miles and 190 RPM’s or rock out to I Will Survive in spin class. Ambition looks to the future; whole-heartedness focuses on the present. Burn enough calories for two glasses of wine later or feel like a bad-ass right now.
One isn’t necessarily better or worse. Is it? Can’t you rock out while keeping a close eye on the metrics. Isn’t it possible to have it all? Or does something get compromised? Is there a sacrifice so small it’s seemingly inconsequential.
I have always believed in the power of whole-heartedness but more as a kind of ‘worker-friendly’ strategy to accomplish my goals. Thing is, my goals keep shifting. And where I am going seems to be increasingly more in the hands of the universe than mine.
So, I am left with ‘how’. How will I get wherever I am going. Ambition has left me spinning around in a tornado of if/ then propositions and what if scenarios. Unintentionally chewing up the scenery to see what’s ahead.
But what if gave up entirely on the destination?
What if I drove myself toward distraction? Measured productivity in increments of joy. Began experimenting with cheesy omelets?