“The great danger is not that our hopes are too high and we fail to reach them, it’s that they are too low, and we do.”
“If you are striving to be equal to your destiny and worthy of the possibilities that sleep in the clay of your heart, then you should be regularly reaching new horizons.”
- John O’ Donahue
Don’t just seek to write one novel—seek to write fifty, a hundred, a thousand. Why not?
Don’t just try to help one person—try to touch the lives of millions. Why not?
Don’t just strive for greatness—strive to be legendary. Why not?
They say that ambition is an ugly thing. In the wrong hands, I suppose it is, but good people can be just as ambitious in their virtue as much as bad people can be ambitious in their malice.
Martin Luther King was ambitious. So were Gandhi and Mother Teresa and Sojourner Truth and Frederick Douglass and Cesar Chavez and many others. There have been (and still are) so many good people whose ambition has led them to do so many good things for humanity—and yet, when we speak of ambition, we still only recall those in history who were ambitious in a negative way.
Why Ambition Gets A Bad Wrap
When we think of ambition, we are reminded of people in history who subverted others, manipulated the masses, or cut down their competitors just to rise to great heights in pursuit of their own personal interests. These are the people we often chide for being driven solely by their “ambition.” When we think of someone having ambition, we often think of someone like the character Eve Harrington from the classic film All About Eve: a theater actress who was immoral, selfish, cold, cruel, calculating, and single-minded in her efforts to achieve her dream—she didn’t mind hurting the ones she loved if it got her what she so deeply desired: fame.
Although Eve Harrington is just a character in a movie, she has become one of the many archetypes in our popular culture that represent “the ambitious person:” a cold, self-centered, egotistical monster. I’m afraid that this stereotype of “the ambitious person” has really hurt us, because not all ambitious people are like Eve.
In fact, all of us have ambition, but because of the negative story many of us associate with ambition, we are often afraid to use our ambition to achieve our goals.
In the pursuit of our dreams, we may experience moments in which our ambition pops out of our heart—like a balloon out of water—and comes out so strong and so suddenly that we may become afraid of it. In that moment, instead of embracing our ambition (or using its great power to propel us forward) we shame it and push it away from us.
After all (we think) ambition is something that makes monsters out of men, and banshees out of women. No, we must not be ambitious. We must stay small. Be tiny. We must stick to the familiar places, the familiar goals, the familiar people, and the familiar experiences. We must settle for the same old horizons.
No: we must not reach for new horizons. Better not embrace our ambition at all. Because if we did, where would it lead us? Will it end up making us look crazy? Irresponsible? Obsessed? Possessed? Mean? Cruel? Manipulative? Egotistical?
Are we going to end up just like poor Eve Harrington at the end of All About Eve? All alone and without a single friend, but having achieved her dream at last?
No we don’t want that nightmare to come true for us, so we’d rather play it safe. We’d rather not be ambitious. There’s less disappointment in that way, anyway. Less risk.
After all, what harm can it cause the world if we do not let ourselves be ambitious?
Our lack of ambition can’t hurt anyone, right?
Why You Should Be More Ambitious
Your reluctance to embrace your ambition wouldn’t harm anyone–if it were not for the fact that you’re not the only person in this world with ambition.
Unfortunately, there are many people on this earth with cynical and negative goals who are also ambitious; but instead of rejecting their ambition (as you have done) they have embraced it—and if you haven’t noticed: these types of people are winning the day.
They are happily sauntering on the news, every day, ambitious in their cruelty, happy for the attention their cynicism is earning them. You can criticize these people, blame them, throw your remote control at the TV—but how ambitious have you been lately about spreading goodness and honesty throughout this world?
There have been so many celebrities who’ve nearly hypnotized complete strangers into spending hours discussing their idiotic antics at bars and coffee shops across the country. Now, say what you will about these sad celebrities hungry for attention, but they are at least far more ambitions than many of us are on a day-to-day basis. You could complain about these celebrities, but when was the last time YOU tried to put the world on stop in order to right an injustice, or expose cruelty against an innocent?
When’s the last time you tried your best to inspire strangers to spend hours and hours talking about how they might spread more love and forgiveness in this world?
When’s the last time you set a goal so high to make people live with more joy, peace, and happiness in this world, that you exhausted yourself by the end of the week by trying?
When’s the last time you actively neutralized the ambition of bad people by fully embracing your ambition to do good in this world?
Where, my friend, is your ambition?
Tap Into Your Ambition Today and Save The World
Those motivated by cynicism and negativity will continue to win the day as long as people motivated by goodness continually reject their own ambition.
What we need are more good people embracing their ambition. If all the good people in this world stopped being afraid of their ambition, embraced it and joined forces with others like them, I have no doubt that very soon their ambition to do good would wipe out all those whose ambition drives them to spread fear.
Don’t get caught up in the negative stereotypes about ambition: just think of your ambition as an energy that is there to help you balance this world--in order to make it a better place.
It’s time for you to tip the balance.
The world is full of ambitious evildoers, yes, and they will not go away any time soon, that’s for sure. But don’t let them try your patience. In fact, sometimes patience is not enough: it can only take you so far. When you run out of patience while following your dream, that is when it is time to tap into your ambition. What you need is to tap into that burning desire to achieve your dream.
Ambition is misunderstood. Some think it means going after what you want at all costs, even if it means hurting others. But that’s not true ambition—that is shadow ambition, ambition in its twisted, mutated form. True ambition is not about hurting others; it is simply the act of utilizing the energy of love (the love for your dream) to carry you to your end goal.
Today, if your patience has run out, acknowledge that patience is no longer enough: tap into your ambition instead, and use the energy of love for your dream to keep you from giving up.
Today’s Courage Exercise
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