Why it’s okay not to be ambitious

okay not to be ambitious, young woman in red jumper

Growing up, I had lots of ambitions for what I wanted to ‘be’ when I was older. Among other things I saw myself as a nurse, a vet, a fashion designer, a children’s author and an interior designer.

I was obsessed with this last one and used to spend my time drawing up dream rooms and labelling all the furniture in them. I was all about the wooden floorboards and had a big thing for red and white sofas as I recall so it’s probably just as well this one didn’t come to fruition.

Of course when it came to actually graduating at 22, I had no idea what I wanted to do.

Fast forward through a year post-uni of figuring that out whilst doing part-time jobs, ending up in marketing, progressing for a few years and then realising in 2018 that I was completely miserable, and totally changing things up to become a teaching assistant. (I wrote more about it in this post – Why I changed career and the difference it’s made to my life)

The last year has been somewhat of a whirlwind I guess, but a good one. More than anything though, it’s been a lesson in prioritising values and feelings over professions and titles. As children, when we talk about what we want to ‘be’ when we’re older, that’s always in reference to the latter. We say “I want to be a doctor”, not “I want to be happy”.

As young adults we might say “I want to be in marketing”, not – for example – “I want to be proud of what I do, living a life on my own terms that gives me the balance I need to be happy, content and emotionally fulfulled as well as intellectually challenged.”

It’s rare I think, to work out the feelings we want first and the job that provides those. After all, we’re taught from a young age that it’s about matching our skillset to the right area, and then working our way up.

Since I’ve moved over to working in a school, a lot of people ask me if I’ll do teacher training next. There’s nothing wrong with that, it’d be a very natural step. But if I’m honest, sometimes when I’m asked that – when it’s not coming from a close friend – I get the feeling that what I’ve done doesn’t make sense to them. That surely the only reason I would become a TA is because I want to progress to being a teacher next.

The truth is, I am just really happy doing what I’m doing. I’m not ruling out becoming a teacher. But at the moment I love my work-life balance, and I’m over the moon to finally be in a place of work where I’m not fighting Sunday night blues every week. Somewhere that doesn’t take over my life, that allows me to leave on time every night and enjoy stress-free evenings working on my blog and drawings.

okay not to be ambitious, youung woman in read jumper

I don’t have any big ambitions for 2019. And that’s just fine. (Apart from buying a house with Aaron, I guess that’s kind of a big one…) What I mean here though is that so often we’re made to feel like we should have all these grand plans, and be constantly pushing all the time for more – more recognition, more stuff, a more impressive title or place of work. It’s very easy to get caught up in the rat race that is modern life.

Please don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with wanting to make money or to better ourselves! I don’t want this post to get tangled up with money talk as that’s a whole complex, thorny issue in itself and everyone’s born with different levels of privilege. I’m not oblivious of mine.

What I’m saying isn’t so much about finances as it is about our attitudes to the future. About what we strive for, and what we allow to define us.

I can’t really put it any better than creative coach Jen Carrington, who in a recent newsletter wrote “One of my biggest triggers of self-doubt can sometimes be worrying that I lack big and ambitious goals. I sometimes wonder, am I doing this all wrong? Should I be dreaming of bigger and bolder things? But it’s the little things that tend to get me out of bed in the morning; time to read a book or listen to my favourite album while soaking in the bath, our dog pottering around the house waiting for us to give him a lap to sit on, knowing that everyone we love is healthy and safe and just a phone call away. And when I cut out all of the noise, this simple, slow, and intentional life of mine feels pretty damn beautiful to me.”

Jen’s words resonated so much, it’s something I feel self-doubt over too and it’s easy to see why we can feel guilty for not having big enough goals. It isn’t about not wanting to grow and progress; it’s about growing and progressing at a rate and in a way that’s comfortable to us, and that sits well with our values.

You might well be someone who is ambitious in the traditional sense, who does have big goals. That’s amazing, and you shouldn’t feel guilty for that either. But if you’re like me and you don’t, I just wanted to remind you that that’s okay too. That there’s something beautiful in focusing on what’s good right now, and not always having our gaze on the next thing.

What are your thoughts on this? I’d love to hear them.

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