April 12, 2021

Ambition and Contentment

Ambition and contentment are the two ingredients for the good life and the most impactful leaders. If you hope to achieve the lasting success you need to hold on to both ambition and contentment in roughly equal measure.

When you have a healthy appetite for success and a deep appreciation for the present, you get to enjoy life to the fullest.

Ambition without Contentment leads to anxiety.

Contentment without Ambition leads to unfulfilled desires.

Ambition is...

Ambition is a double-edged sword, and to have it take root in you, to be tapped on the shoulder by this god of emotion and power can be both exhilarating and dispiriting. You are driven by it. In moments when your ambition has taken control of you, you lack contentment. You want something so badly that nothing else can give you peace.

But change is impossible without a compelling ambition. Ambition gives you the drive to see your vision through to reality. You need to be in the game because you want to win, or you want to learn, or you want to help others, or you want to right some wrong. The underlying cause can be anything and everything. But if ambition doesn't drive you forward there is nothing left. Just endless motion that never adds up to anything of merit.

Ambition moves you out of the limbo of regretful procrastination.

Contentment is...

Contentment or accepting the present moment is not the same as resignation or giving up. Contentment doesn't mean you don't care about your difficulties, or that you shouldn't react. You can be content in the face of grief for the loss while considering options for what comes next. Contentment is the ability to live present in a disordered world.

Contentment is a state of being in the presence of what is, without needing more, wanting less, or trying to change it into something else.

Contentment doesn't have to be the absence of ambition but the feeling that your ambitions are on track. You're making moves that are true to who you are.

In this life, there will be many difficult times, but we don't have to live those times in fear or anger. We can find joy in each moment and be OK with the pain. Contentment calms us down so we can be resilient. It may seem or feel like our problems are insurmountable, but contentment is an attitude that can help us deal with our stress.

We need both ambition and contentment.

Develop ambition and contentment together.

Ambition is a source of energy. Contentment is a source of durability.

The upshot is that you don't have to choose ambition over contentment, or vice versa. You can develop both. The real choice comes later - when each of these two powerful emotions seems to be calling for a different course of action. Sometimes ambition will say to you, 'I'm getting so close I can feel it! This could be my year! This could change everything!' And sometimes contentment will say, 'You've made it this far; why risk messing with a good thing!'

The most potent combination of leadership skills is ambition and contentment. This paradoxical combination is the elixir that delivers the highest impact in leadership. Ambition is your fuel. Ambition stokes and sharpens the fire of your vision. But with ambition comes anxiety. I am not there. Yet. Contentment means I can be ok not being there yet. It isn't laziness but peace.

Ambitious leaders are strategic.

Content leaders are kind.

We need leaders who own both qualities more than ever.

How can you stoke your ambition? Don't try to solve a current challenge yet. Look beyond the horizon of the problem and try to identify a compelling desire. Desire and vision will take you beyond the problem.

How can you cultivate contentment? You will not reach a level of achievement that relaxes your ambition. Contentment is cultivated by enjoying the process. It's sipping coffee and listening to the birds while you stir the day's ambitions. It's being finished with the day and knowing deep in your bones that your achievements don't permanently fix anything where you seek to be content.

You might also be interested in reading...

10 Beliefs That Prevent You From Being Successful

Is Your Authenticity Being Corrupted?

Do You Have A Mission Mindset?

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