Am I Too Ambitious?

10 Mar 2019

Ambitious. I like to think that's a word that means different things to different people. It can mean that you're super strong-willed and determined in a way "she's so ambitious" sort of way. Or it can mean that you're a little bit silly for trying to add too many tiers to a cake and it's starting to go lopsided, but you've come too far to turn back, in a way "that's a bit ambitious, don't you think?" sort of way. Right now, for me, 'ambitious' is a bit of a negative word. I've been thinking about it a lot recently and if I dwell on it too long, I get a bit sad. So I did what any reasonable person would do and wrote a brain dump blog post about it...

As a kid, I was branded as lazy. This was mainly because I didn't want to do a paper round (let's face it, who really wanted to do a paper round?), so I chose not to. I wanted to do well in school, so I put the whole part time job thing to the side, but when I didn't do all that well in school, I was told that I didn't revise for long enough or that I just simply didn't try my best. I was told that I needed ambition.

Now, being ambitious as a teenager can be difficult. Sure, there are a bunch of kids who know exactly what they want out of life and they go out and get it and live happily ever after. My friend wanted to be a paramedic from a very young age, so she went out, got her license and now she's living her best life and saving people! But what about those of us who never really know what they want out of life, like me? I flitted between ideas of jobs that I fancied, took A Levels that I thought would be helpful in a bunch of different jobs and never really quite settled, but still, I tried my hardest in everything that I did. I always seemed to fall short though - only one A in my GCSEs, no As in my A Levels and a 2:1 in my undergraduate degree. I started to question whether all this pressure to be ambitious was actually hindering me.
So now, in the present day, I still really haven't settled, but I've got a list as long as my arm of things that I want to achieve in life. Some of them are career-related, some of them aren't, but the list includes:
  • Progressing in my current marketing role
  • Starting a freelance marketing company
  • Opening a tea lounge
  • Travelling
  • Getting married, buying a house and having babies
  • Doing a PhD
  • Customising and selling clothes
  • Taking my blog a bit more seriously

And the list just goes on. As you can tell from that small snippet, over the years, I've dabbled in a lot of things - education, baking, marketing, crafting and so on - but I struggle with just honing in on one thing. I've become a person that likes to try out lots of different things, but not have one real true passion to pursue, and I wonder whether that's an issue. I also wonder whether it stems from the pressure I felt to achieve when I was younger.

I've titled this post "am I too ambitious?" because I don't know whether I've now become a person that wants to achieve so much that they won't actually achieve anything that they want to achieve. For example, I would love to progress in my current job, but I've been developing an idea for a PhD over the last couple of weeks that is quite unique and new, so if I waited a couple of years, the topic may be covered by somebody else. But I can't just drop my brand new job... so then another option is to take my PhD part time. However, that means 6-7 years of researching and writing alongside my full time job, which takes 6-7 years away from achieving any of the other things on my list. I hope that makes sense, but this is the battle I've been having with myself a lot lately.
All of this leads me to wonder whether my relationship with ambition is a little bit unhealthy. It also doesn't help that I'm a total perfectionist, so if I don't achieve something to the standard that I want, I'll be disappointed. But I'm also worried that if I don't achieve the things that I truly care about on my list, I'll feel like I haven't lived a fulfilled life. I know that my dream of opening a tea lounge is a bit of a pipe dream because I don't know the first thing about owning a business, but I have had a detailed plan of how my shop would look and the things I would sell for years... and I mean years. Alex always tells me I should look into it more and that I should have faith, but something always seems to be in the way, like money or other 'proper' jobs, but I've been building this pretend tea lounge in my head for so long that I know it'll break my heart if it doesn't come to fruition.

I also get a bit of a kick out of overachieving and I think that comes from my falling short in secondary school and college. I was so beyond chuffed to get a First in my Masters degree and I felt like I was proving a point to everyone who thought I was rubbish in education and that I didn't try hard enough. And that makes me wonder whether having this mega long list is me subconsciously trying to overachieve and do a great big two fingers up to the world.

I know the clear answer to the tea lounge thing is research and, trust me, I've been researching and will continue to do so, but the list of the list? Who knows! I think I've got a couple of options:
  • Prioritise - figure out what is really achievable and important to me, and put the other goals to one side
  • Set bitesize goals - Rome wasn't built in a day, so one option is to outline smaller, more achievable goals for each thing, so that I can see a clear path to success
  • Remember that there is no time frame - I constantly seem to forget that I'm only 24 (soon to be 25!) and that I have years ahead of me, so I put this pressure on myself to achieve everything as soon as possible. There is no time frame!

I can tell you for sure though, that right now, the main things on my mind from my list are progressing my job, travelling, the whole house thing and doing my PhD, so it's this jumble of stuff that's prompted me to have this huge brain dump.

So please, tell me your thoughts on ambition. Mine are kind of negative and I definitely need to work on them, but I'm sure I'll get there. Having ambition and a drive to get something is healthy, but having a humongous life to do list? I'm not too sure. I want to be a killer girl boss (because let's be real, there's this unspoken pressure on women to be ambitious, but that's a whole other blog post), but I'm worried that I'll be disappointed or burnt out in the process.

Tell me what you think! Give me some tips or tell me your greatest ambition in life!

Whould you like to comment?

  1. I feel the same way! I also feel like I have way too much ambition for my own good. I am always adding things to my life to do list and stressing over how I'm going to get them all done. What do I do first? How can I get this done without killing one of my other goals? I'm sorry but I won't be able to help you except to say to go with your heart. Pick which thing will make you the happiest and use all of your ambition to work towards making that thing happen. I wish you the best of luck!

  2. Hi Oliver. Just followed you on Twitter under Stockpip. On this blog regarding Ambition...I have been guilty calling my son just that. Why have you no ambition? After reading this post, I do feel a tad guilty, but hey,I’m all for his good lol. Oliver, all the best.