I confess: I am ambitious. I am ambitious in every area of my life. I am ambitious physically, emotionally, relationally, spiritually, and financially. I am ambitious in my career. I am ambitious with both the for-profit and not-for-profit organizations I run.
But ambition isn’t the problem. Something else is. It is something that runs counter to ambition. It is something I need more of in my life, which is strange, because, while ambition is good, this is good too – and they are seemingly opposites.
I need them both, yet I have huge doses of ambition and I am lacking in this other trait. It is something I want more of in my life because I believe my life will be richer for it. It will fill my life with more joy and happiness. It will make my life more full.
What is it? I’m not telling! Just joking. With a lead in like that, I couldn’t resist!
It is contentment.
As I get older, I realize that most of what I pursue with such tenacity is good, but it usually comes much slower than I want it to.
This leaves me with two options:
Be disappointed or…
Be content. Enjoy where I am for all it has to offer, even while I work to be somewhere else.
You see, my life is pretty good. No, it is great. I make a lot of money. I have a beautiful and supportive wife. I have four astoundingly incredible kids. I live in a beautiful town. I run my own schedule. I travel to wonderful places. I run in circles I never thought I would. My friends are loyal. I have terrific business partners and lots of people who believe in me. I contribute a lot to society in many ways. My family and I are all healthy. Who could ask for anything more? Well, me. And I do.
That is a lot to ask for, isn’t it? But I am ambitious, right?
Now I am learning contentment. And I imagine that it would do you some good to learn a little contentment too, wouldn’t it?
So here are some thought on how to live with a little more contentment:
Take time. Simply take time off from your ambitions. Take time to spend in leisurely pursuits. Take time to just enjoy your family and friends. In other words, stop working long enough to enjoy your life.
Appreciate: Appreciate what you have, even if it isn’t all that you want. I frequently remind myself that there are children who will wake up today, by no fault of their own, in a country with no hope of ever going anywhere. Their hope is to live through the day, and perhaps get two bowls of rice. This reminds me that I have A LOT to be appreciative of even if I never take a step further in life.
Give money, things, and time away. Give to the less fortunate. The happiness on their faces and the warmth of their hearts will bring you a great deal of satisfaction and contentment.
Remind yourself of the treadmill trap. John D. Rockefeller was once asked how much was enough. His answer? “Just a little bit more.” Ambition can be a trap if not carefully guarded against the extremes.
Don’t take yourself so seriously. I hate to tell you this but if you died… shhh… the world would keep right on spinning. Tony Campolo days the futility of life is that when you die, your friends get together, say a prayer, throw dirt in your face and then go back to the church to eat macaroni salad and talk about sports. So, unless you are the President of a major super power, with your finger on the button, remember, your life isn’t so serious that you can’t take it easy and enjoy it a little bit more.
Do I have contentment down? Nope. But I am working on it. I am striving to be all that I can be and make as big of a difference in this world as long as I am here.
But I am working on enjoying the ride a bit more. I hope you will too.