On Re-Framing Ambition


In these last two weeks, I'm leaning heavily (more than usual) into my family and caring for myself.  It means that naps and nighttimes when I otherwise couldn't get to the computer fast enough to write, catch up on email or work through a partnership, I'm taking it slow.  

Within 72 hours of the shift, I was harshly questioning my "ambition".  I had a weekend long negative tailspin complete with self-describing words like lazy or unmotivated. 

Sunday evening, I was holding my 30-pound son, singing at his request while roasting broccoli and talking through our upcoming home renovation with my husband, and I thought how could anyone, let alone me, call this lazy. 

The popular definition of ambition is a "strong desire to do".  The dictionaries don't elaborate what you are doing.  We've created a culture where ambition is solely defined by career progression or growth and it's hard not to absorb it, to measure yourself against the cultural benchmarks of success.  I've talked about measuring success for Mother Untitled before (here).

But what if we take Merriam-Webster's word for it, and assume that ambition is a long game of doing.  And sometimes that means having a successful marriage which warrants both, hard work and determination - the dictionary pre-requisites of ambition.  It's raising loved and loving children.  Or being a kind, healthy human.  And sometimes it means creating or growing projects within workplaces or for yourself. 

But thought of that way, and not with a singular focus, ambition is doing work for many things you care deeply about over the course of your life.  If we're all holding a platter of things to care for, it's natural for motivations to shift toward pressing, time-sensitive priorities.  And sometimes, the motivation to do - to do for your family, namely - may come in the shape of slowing down on other things.  

By this logic, if I give myself permission to take my foot off the gas on somethings this week or even this month, I'm not cutting myself slack - I'm recognizing that right now, I'm extra motivated to care for myself and my family through transitions.  Who knows what next month will bring - ambition is a long game. 

Have you ever had similar thoughts?  What does the word ambition mean to you? I'd love to know. xo

Photo by Giulia Bertelli on Unsplash