Ambition and Contentment are Not Mutually Exclusive

POSTED BY: Oliver Ross \ January 25, 2016
Ambition and Contentment are Not Mutually Exclusive

“Until you can appreciate what you have there will never be room for more.
The key lies in a balance between contentment and ambition”

Ambition, the desire for success, is a basic human characteristic. Virtually everyone is ambitious, at least to some extent. Almost all of us want to succeed at something – whether it is in our family role, career, community, artistry, spirituality, or any other involvement. Without ambition, it’s hard to imagine that the so many wonderful advances we have made in in medicine, science and technology, to name just a few, would exist.

The ambition involved in the practice of contentment is the desire for success in experiencing larger and longer-lasting moments of serenity and satisfaction. However, even this aspect of ambition can become problematic when it stems from a mindset that is predominately unappreciative instead of appreciative (Chapter 3).

When our state of mind mostly generates thoughts which are mainly unappreciative, ambition can run rampant. Because all thoughts generated by an unappreciative mindset carry the mistaken message that  we are not-enough just as we are – not good enough, not smart enough, not lovable enough, not worth enough, and so on – they can cause our desire for success to morph into a dangerous drive for endless more, better and different successes. They also can cause our desire for success to devolve into fear, the flipside of desire (Chapter 8). Either way, though, when our ambition is generated by an unappreciated state of mind it is bound to cause one or more negative emotional and behavioral consequences, including obsession and compulsion on one hand and procrastination and prevention on the other.

My ambition definitely ran rampant back before the “breakout” I described in Chapter 2. Before then I was driven by my predominately unappreciative mindset to such an extreme extent that I was literally working myself to death.

Practitioners of contentment continually strive to keep their ambition in line with the goal of feeling increasingly content by becoming progressively aware and accepting of their unappreciative not-enough thoughts. They have learned that awareness combined with acceptance neutralizes the discontent that otherwise ensues from a predominately unappreciative state of mind (Chapter 14), precludes their ambition from running rampant, and generates greater contentment.