Can Contentment and Ambition Co-Exist?

In the modern world, we are more likely to encounter people who are always busy and on-the-go, than those without much to do and content. However, there is a paradox that exists in our society, because as much as we all want to be ambitious, “successful” and make money, we also WISH we could slow down. Well, can we? It is possible to be content and ambitious at the same time?

Let us first consider the root of our “busy,” problem. The root of this problem is our incessant search for fulfillment. We are running away from insecurities by keeping ourselves busy, motivated to get a promotion or make more money. But, what if we had found fulfillment without having to do all of this running around? Would we then be considered unambitious, unmotivated and lazy? To some, perhaps.

Contentment is the other end of the spectrum, where one might find themselves totally at peace with where they are and feeling like they have everything they could ever want in this moment without promotion, monetary bonus or achievement of a higher status.

Unfortunately, we will continue to battle this paradoxical wanting to have ambition yet be content, but we most definitely can find a common ground if we choose to. I believe the sweet spot between the two is detachment.

In being content with where you are and what you have in the moment, it already sets you up to solve for the challenge of ambition. With being content, ambition acts as a hobby or sport in our already fulfilling lives. When we think of it as a sport we can relate to the want for friendly competition, accomplishment and play but we do not take it so seriously. You know that winning in that game of pickup basketball with a friend will not add lasting fulfillment your life (hopefully for most of us), but it is a fun addition to the day.

Similarly, living life with contentment allows for us to find pleasures in the small things, remain humble in great accomplishments and most important, and always remain grateful for where we are whether our ambitions grows or diminishes.

To answer the initial question whether contentment and ambition can co-exist, I would argue, yes, but in order for this to be achieved, it is important for our mindset to remain in contentment and pursue our ambitions with a detached approach to its role in the fulfillment in our lives.

Today, take a moment from the “busy” day to appreciate all you have. And, isn’t it enough? It’s beautiful! 🙂

What is My Intention For Today?

Take a moment to first ask yourself this question, and keep your answer in mind.

Recently I listened to an interview of Jay Shetty, who spend almost three years living as a monk. He has since been a public figure, promoting mindfulness and positivity, in short. During this interview Shetty says he begins his day with one question- “What is my intention for today?” The thought behind this question is to recognize what is the most important work for you to do today. Shetty encouraged us to focus on intention rather than what he calls the “weeds” or distractions that will inevitably come along with the day as well. The “weeds” represent the impurity of our true intention. In the example Shetty provided was his intention each day is to educate and inspire people. The weeds that get in the way of this pure intention is the money, the number of followers, and the fame that inadvertently comes along with it. Though it is easy to get caught up in these weeds, he focuses on this sole intention.

So, “What is my intention for today?”

As I ask myself this question, and my mind diverts to thinking about wish to accomplish professionally today. However, I interrupt this thought to reflect on my personal mantra—to be a source of peace and inspiration to all who surround me today. This begins to put my true intention into perspective. My true intention is to live out this very mantra. Initially, I believed my intention would be to close a sale and obtain a commission. But, this is not my intention for the today. Perhaps that is a personal goal I have for myself but it cannot be confused with being my intention. The lust for a royalty is a weed which may even distract me from executing this true intention.

What can possibly get me down or distract me if this is my sole intent? How can unsuccessful cold calls or a lull in a sales closing possibly get in the way of this? It cannot.

Focus on your true intention for today, and don’t let the weeds get in your way.

The Expression of Joy

I have done a lot of thinking about “expressing joy.” In Brene Brown’s Power of Vulnerability (which I feel I need to give a second listen to), she speaks of expressing JOY and the fulfillment of happiness this brings. She speaks of a story of a man who lives his entire life like everything is just ok, not really getting overly excited or enthused about much. Then one day his wife of 25 years passes away, and he is regretful of never truly expressing the joy he had all of these years of life with her. From the day on, this man vowed to actively express joy every single day. I may have paraphrased that story a bit, but the lesson is conclusive:

Actively express joy for everything in life, big or small.

It is easier said than done mostly because life is so distracting and sometimes we do not truly see a moment as an opportunity for joy, rather, we may just see it as just another ordinary moment.

If you are anything like me, vacations or promotions were always things I was appreciative and grateful for but did not necessarily induce excitement. Perhaps it is due to a modest upbringing or not wanting to come off as arrogant or haughty, but the converse of not expressing joy, is just as poor… We SHOULD be excited and be joyous for these small pleasures in life.

This thoughts has then led to my attempt in better defining “joy,” and also finding a way to intentionally express it every single day.

First, my definition of “joy” is essentially gratitude + excitement.

Gratitude is the expression of things in life that we are appreciative and thankful for but does not necessarily induce that explosive expression of how I (at least) visualize “joy.” The visual that comes to mind when I think of joy is then sun shining, beaming on my back as I skip through a field of daisies, wearing a great big grin. That is the visual I need to live up to in my mind.

So, in order to have that visual come closer to life, the second piece of this definition is then excitement! This is an action we prompt have to prompt for ourselves. We can choose to be excited about those moments in life we are grateful for. Ever hear the old saying, “Act enthusiastic and you’ll be enthusiastic”? It might be a motto you may hear at a Dale Carnegie Public Speaking workshop, but nonetheless, whether in public speaking, business or in life, we act the way we want to feel, more simply. I believe this intentional expression of excitement paired with this appreciation for moments big and small, helps us to feel JOY.

As a matter of practice, every day I do express gratitude but to further express joy, this morning I ask myself a simple question:

What am I excited for today?

Now, for the record, today is an ordinary working money, I do not have anything particularly unique going on, yet still I found moments to be excited about.

  • Excited to go to work.
  • Excited to finish my tasks for my project.
  • Excited to talk to partner about his day later.
  • Excited to go to the gym.
  • Excited to have dinner with my family.
  • Excited to read my book.
  • Excited to have my bean soup for lunch.

It sounds silly but we deserve to be joyous about all facets of life. Otherwise, why bother waking up, right?

Answer this question for yourself today and feel your mood change. I promise. That is joy.