I’ve long had a theory that ambition and contentment do not peacefully coexist. Ambition is: a strong desire to do or to achieve something, typically requiring determination and hard work. Contentment, on the other hand, is a state of happiness or satisfaction with the status quo.
Ambition requires a certain dissatisfaction since if one is completely satisfied, there’s little motivation to do or achieve anything that changes the present circumstances. If I’m content with how tight my jeans are, quite frankly, I’m not going to find the ambition to make my way to the gym. If I’m happy with the amount of money I’m making at my job and I like my colleagues, I won’t be very ambitious to climb the corporate ladder, start my own business, or ask for a raise.
So are some people naturally ambitious while others are naturally content? As a generally contented person, I find it rare to envision a grander future for myself and then set goals to make the vision a reality. But I’ve caught rare glimpses. This website and its corollary business, for example. But what motivates a content person to imagine and then reach for something more? And how can those who are constantly chasing the next great thing find joy in the here and now rather than believing that true happiness will come only when the next goal is achieved?
I think it has a lot to do with temperament, but it’s also linked to passion. Passion can be a driving force or a source of purpose and satisfaction. When passion drives ambition, one can also be content.
Which camp do you fall into? Are you generally content and need to be fired up to go to the next level? Or are you consistently reaching for the next great thing, maybe missing out on the peace that comes from satisfaction? Are your eyes on the road ahead or on the passing scenery?