Could it be as simple as changing our mindset? Does that baloney even work? Can we afford to relax a little, maybe take ourselves less seriously? Don’t we deserve to really THRIVE here?
I’ve been reflecting on my workaholic tendencies, along with my own ambition. When I get laser-focussed, everything else falls away in the pursuit of my goals. (Facts: I’m not that much fun to be around and I look like a grease monkey with my unwashed hair!) I could probably work myself into the grave and even then I’d continue picking up things that need attention.
That’s all fine and dandy, because I get to call my own shots, and everything I do is a labour of love. But if I’m not careful, it too can become a toiling hot mess.
But why not aim higher?
My dad used to quote from Robert Browning a lot, and one that has always stuck with me is this:
“A man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?”R. Browning
I love this quote, and my ambitions are evidence of my own belief in it. Of course I believe in striving for more than we need or desire. If we only strive for what’s in our immediate grasp, guess what we’ll end up with?
And I know not everyone has their basic needs even met, so let’s get that out of the way before I yak any further.
But, what if mankind didn’t strive for what lies beyond?
Surely we would not have landed on the moon, written symphonies while blind and deaf, or simulated an actual wormhole! (Note: the latter is astonishing and I encourage you do go down that rabbit hole to see where science has just taken us.)
My point here is I’m doubtful the most accomplished humans in history set out to simply “survive.”
The doomed houseplant.
I recently accepted the planter of a work colleague who was moving back to Italy. The plant itself is on death row, but I didn’t have the heart to tell my friend I’ve a history of manslaughter with these things. He was desperate to have it go to a good home and had hours to get it out of his apartment.
The reality is, I’ll try to keep up with that plant’s basic needs as best I can. I’ll water it (when I remember) and maybe, the little guy will have a shot.
But what if I actually re-potted him? Spent time and energy infusing his soil with fertilizer… Investigated the best possible light for my new friend to really bloom?
I’m sure if I did this, he’d not only survive, but he’d thrive!
The truth is, I care, but there are far too many tasks more pressing than making it my mission to become some Goddess of Greenery here at home. I accept this, because we can’t be all guns-ablazing with everything in our life. There simply aren’t enough hours in the day.
The cost of our ambition.
Burnout, resentment, failed relationships, weight gain, weight loss, headaches… these are just some of the things I’ve experienced personally in the chasing of my very lofty dreams. I see some head-nodding in the Over-Achievers crowd! Capricorns, you feeling any of this?
The world is full of ambitious people, and thank goodness, because they appear to have the stamina to go the distance. But sometimes we can lose sight of what really matters when all is said and done.
I will fully admit I’ve lost years as a mom, my head shoved so far up my ambitious ass: I blinked and my baby girl is almost fifteen. I’m not saying I haven’t been a decent mom, but for sure I’ve not properly listened when she’s talked to me, I’ve shushed her away when in the middle of “something important” and I’ve missed loads of events knowing her dad would represent.
This is all time I will never get back.
Just the other day, I found a video of myself… Ugg, it was painful to watch. I was bawling into the camera, lamenting about my fear of the future, blah blah, boo-hoo. And my then twelve-year-old came bounding down the stairs wanting to show me her latest art. I watched my annoyance on the screen and heard myself say, “Saffy, I’m in the middle of something,” to which her wounded eyes clouded over.
I will never get a do-over of those moments. So. I’m asking myself if I shouldn’t be dulling down my ambition.
Let’s just move to an island and sell piña coladas on the beach.
Hands up if you’ve said this!
We say it in the comfortable knowledge that it seems like less hassle. The exact opposite of some hectic ambition over here in the “real world.” (Note to anyone who has plans to do this… It’s obviously not this simple, so forgive the overused metaphor.)
I’ve no interest in getting to the end of my life having alienated myself from the people who matter to me. Or having recklessly focussed on what could end up being a pipe dream. (I will never believe this, so I’ll also ask you to forgive my hypocrisy!)
At the same time, I think our quest to pursue that which is beyond our grasp is healthy. What is life, if not made up of dreams? Why not try? If we can develop healthy parameters that will ensure we continue nurturing the people we love, then why not?
The joy in it has to matter, or ambition can just fuck right off.
Today I had a conversation with a fellow entrepreneur who reminded me that finding and feeling the joy in our work is not some fluffy fantasy reserved for Instagram. It’s incumbent on all of us to seek it out, because the alternative is a whole pile of years where we wither.
Our chat reminded me that I need to dust off my feminine energy, and just sit in the silence of being. That we’re SUPPOSED to enjoy the process, otherwise, what’s the point? Do we want our ambition to morph into withering?!
I sure don’t. So, where to go, what to do?
I say we should always aim higher. But not at the expense of our health, our love for family, or our values. We should reframe our ambition as a human right to thrive on this planet. And we should find ways to make all that hard work feel fun.
That, to me, is thriving. Now excuse me while I water my new friend. He’s looking a little thirsty these days…