Most people do not think of ambition in terms of joy and necessity. Especially in today's culture.
But what is ambition and why is it important?
Let's start with a definition: "Having a desire to achieve a particular goal."
That's simple enough. But, I think it is important to add the words 'and taking action' to the definition. After all, if someone merely has the desire and takes no action, it was all just wishful thinking.
So the definition becomes: "Having so much desire to achieve a particular goal that one takes the actions necessary to achieve it."
You can learn a lot about ambition just by watching a young child. Even before they can walk, they will crawl to what they desire. And, then, once they can walk and run, well, it's hard to keep up with them.
The child sees something it wants. What do they do? Without thinking, they go for it. Why?
They are naturally ambitious. It is something built into all animals. And yes, we humans are animals.
Now, let's move to when a child grows up and becomes an adult. They have a desire for a better life for themselves and their loved ones. That is natural. They remain ambitious - a good thing.
There have been scientific studies that show that the simple act of making progress towards a goal leads to happiness. It just feels good to know you're getting closer to what you've set your heart on.
This is why it is helpful to break big projects into smaller steps. Every time you complete a step, you get a little dose of happiness to keep you going.
Then, by taking more steps, you build momentum and your doses of happiness increase. You feel better about yourself.
Finally finishing the project gives that sense of achievement and your self-esteem grows.
So we have established that an ambitious person goes after something they value.
There are two categories of value. First, there are values which are things required for survival. These are values you can't do without because you need them to survive.
Second, are values that aren't required for survival, but you want them anyway. This category covers most of our desires.
The emotions for each are different. There is a difference between wanting to and having to.
For instance consider a job. Any job. A person may love what they do which means the job is a value in and of itself.
But there are many people who don't like their job, and some people who actually hate their job. For those people, the job is a value only because they need it for survival. These people could be said to be ambitious but only on a very small level. They are getting less out of life than what is possible.
So we have talked about the ambition of a person who is going after something they truly desire versus a person who is slightly ambition because they have no choice. They are doing something they clearly have to do to survive.
But there aren't just two levels of ambition, there is a continuum. And the way you decide where you fall on the continuum, simply look to the amount of effort you exert.
The more you value something, the more effort you are willing to put in.
It's easy to see how ambitious someone is by the amount of effort they make and the amount of time they put into their endeavor.
Take Michael Jordan for instance. Think of the amount of time and effort he had to put in to become the great player he became.
If someone wants to be the best, they have to sacrifice a lot. I'm sure Michael did not go out a lot at night clubbing with friends. How many parties did he miss? But look at what he achieved.
It's the difference between instant gratification and delayed gratification. He wanted to be the best and got it, but at a cost, a cost he was willing to pay.
Michael Jordan was willing to give up a lot in life to become a truly great basketball player. He valued growing his skill and winning championships.
This illustrates what Jim Rohn taught about the purpose of goals. He taught that the important reason to go for really big goals is not the goal itself. What's important about going for a goal is the person you have to become to reach that level of accomplishment.
That's what happens for a person with ambition. Once they reach one goal, they are ready to tackle a tougher goal. It feels so good to them to have reached one level, that they become compelled to go to the next level.
Why not go for the gusto? Everyone has so much potential; and, yet, so few reach a high level of what they could become.
So how about it? Are you ready to see how good you can become at something? To set some pretty high goals? To take initiative?
If so, just realize you will not be able to hit the really high goals immediately. It doesn't work that way. Instead, you break the really big goals into smaller goals. That will give you the chance you can hit those goals.
And as you hit each goal, celebrate. You are building momentum.
Along the way, remember to remind yourself what the end result will be. You can use the "What if strategy" to see possibilities.
What if you got your goal accomplished? What would the benefits be? What kind of person will you have become?
Write it down so at those times you are not feeling the strength you need, pull out that sheet of paper and remind yourself why you want to reach the goal. Why it will be worth it to put in the time and effort, and to make the sacrifices. Become more like Michael Jordan.
Another technique you can use to grow is Visualization. Your mind cannot tell the difference between a very detailed vision of what you want and reality itself.
This makes it possible to practice while lying in bed or sitting in a chair. Close your eyes and imagine yourself going for your goal. It really does work.
I used it to become a State Champion in the discus when I was in high school. I was small for a discus thrower, but I got the spin technique down perfect. Yes, I also practiced and worked very hard to get better. But, make no mistake about it, visualization helped.
You're on to a great adventure. Good luck!
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