Intelligence without ambition is a bird without wings.
– Salvador Dali
Ambition can creep as well as soar.
– Edmund Burke
Obviously Mr Dali and Mr Burke associate the word “ambition” with a very different meaning and benefit set.
Ambition is a concept which has very different connotations depending on our cultural background, our education and our professional or social environment. It also resonates differently according to our personality type and our values.
As a matter of fact, the Cambridge dictionary gives us 2 definitions of ambition:
Definition 1: A strong wish to achieve something.
Definition 2: A strong wish to be successful, powerful, rich, etc.
In some cultures, a child’s ambition is prohibited at school – comparison to others is dissuaded, competition and stretch targets are presented as destructive. Conversely, in other cultures, the best kindergartens or nurseries are reserved to kids who demonstrate ambition at the age of 3.
The nuances around ambition might, at first sight, seem anecdotal. However, in career coaching, we often find behind the meaning our coachees give this word, a set of associated beliefs that can either be empowering or limiting. In some situations, professionals seeking for a better level of satisfaction in their career sphere can limit themselves and ‘auto-narrow’ their scope of possibilities because they have the unconscious belief that daring to go for more in their professional environment would make them perceived as ambitious. In their mind that is associated to being egotistical, greedy, selfish and self-centered – all descriptions that completely repulse them.
In coaching, we welcome ambition and the emotions it generates with full respect of what it means in our coachee world map. However, to help our clients succeed in reaching their goal, we often aim at finding together an acceptable yet empowering relationship with concept of ambition.
Well-aimed and supported by values, ambition reflects a healthy self-esteem and a higher power of abstraction and visualization of the future. Perceiving ambition as a power to do anything one’s heart desires, in any field of life, it can accelerate ones path towards set objectives and dreams.
What about you? What does ambition means to you and how do you see others ambition?
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