Let’s redefine ambition

Up until very recently I would have told you that I lack ambition. 

Backstory: at some point over the past few years I noticed friends and colleagues going far, fast in their careers. They wanted to be the boss. They weighed their life choices carefully; their career fully in the mix of determining where they might want to live or what job they might want to accept.

I thought to myself, huh. I’m not like that. I don’t really want to be the boss; I’m a much happier second in command. And I don’t want to work 24/7.


Ambition is definitely needed to hike up Lazy Mountain, which is anything but.

I must lack ambition. 

At first I felt shame around it, but then I slowly accepted it. I went about my days: rode my bike, saw my friends, went to work, came home. It was spring when it first occurred to me that I might not be ambitious and I remember thinking that everything looked green and new, and wondering if I was just that slow to notice.

Eventually, I stopped comparing myself and in thinking I was behind in some way, and instead stuck my elbows out in my own lane and cheered them on in theirs. Whatever floats your boat, I figured. There are more ways than one to make a life, and I am just curiously not motivated the same way other people seem to be. I “owned” my lack of ambition.

Then, just a few days ago this video by Mel Robbins, a motivational speaker and the kind of forceful female powerhouse I find refreshing, popped up. In the video, Mel asserts that just because you’re not career-focused doesn’t mean you’re not ambitious.

I watched it with my mouth open. This is me, I thought, as she spelled out all the other ways one might have ambition in life. I realized how ridiculous it was that I’d thought I lacked ambition, when actually, in the past year, I’ve made a major career change, I’ve started a small business and opened an art studio, and I have relentlessly pursued adventure and building relationships (existing and new), including with my chosen home of Alaska.

In one sense, I’m left feeling vindication and an even sharper sense of “live and let live” – we all have different focuses in life. But it’s also a stunning reminder of how insidious the urge to compare myself to others can be, even when I think I don’t do that.

Ambition. It comes up in different ways. Maybe, at its heart, it’s just about wanting to immerse myself as deeply in life as possible, and challenging myself one step at a time to do exactly that. Somehow, even with big steps I have been pushing myself to take, I missed that definition. But it feels right.

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