• Does ambition motivate you, or is it just another way to beat yourself up for not being where you 'should' be?

  • Coach Becky Hall breaks down healthy ambition and assessing when enough is enough

We’re so often encouraged to set clear intentions and to know what we want, but ambition can be complex. For some, it can be the very thing that drives you to achieve what you are capable of – keeping you focused, stretched and engaged. For others though, ambition can become a stick to beat yourself up with. 

When success and ambition become intertwined, we can fall into the trap of believing that if we don’t succeed in reaching our ambitions at the rate and pace we hoped to, we are somehow failing. If ambition is making you compare yourself with others, tune into perfectionist thinking or giving a vehicle to think about your failings, then it may just be time to turn your ambition on its head, and focus on how you can achieve enough to make you happy.  

Here are four ways to frame your ambition within the context of enough.

1. Focus on what you have achieved, not what you lack

It’s great to be driven, intentional and focused, as long as the focus is on what we have not what we lack. The pull towards comparison, scarcity and perfectionism are strong in today’s world and it takes some resisting!  

When you set yourself ambitions or goals, use them as ways of charting what you have; your achievements, your efforts, your progress. Keep a record of these things, can help you to move away from a mindset of scarcity to one of ‘enough’, from which you can flourish.

2. Connect your ambition with your values and purpose

Is your ambition aligned to what you believe is most important? When was the last time you thought about your values? The things that really matter to you – your beliefs about how you want to show up in the world and what’s most important to you. 

It can be so powerful to re-connect to our values from time to time. They act as a kind of internal compass – a ‘true north’ for us to guide what we want and how we want to live. 

Selecting a small number of values can be a good check-in, and can direct you to your purpose – which is how you can bring your values to life. Aligning your ambition with what matter most to you, is a great re-boot and links what you are doing day to day, with a sense of making a difference.   

3. Do what YOU really want

Are you sure that your ambition really belongs to you? It’s easy to fall into the expectations and hopes of others – whether this is your family, friends or colleagues.  

Just because you are able to achieve certain things, doesn’t mean you have to. What is it that YOU want to do in your life? What is it that YOUR heart longs for? 

Sometimes following your own path can mean feeling disloyal to the expectations of others. The key here is to learn how to tolerate that discomfort and know that it will pass. 

4. Widen the scope of your ambition

Often we assume that our ambition is what we reserve for our working life – what we want to DO in the world. But how about what you want to BE?   

Try thinking about your life as a whole. Give yourself the gift of looking at your life as if you were looking down on a room from an upper balcony. What are all the aspects of your life that you care about? What is your ambition for all of them?  

We can have a lot of ambitions – lots of plans, dreams and hopes. When we are able to weave them together so that we are attending to the whole of our lives, not just work, we can create boundaries that enable us to focus on more than what we do – and include how we want to be too. It’s the key to a balanced life, which is a great ambition in itself. It’s enough!

Becky Hall is a life coach, leadership consultant and the author of The Art of Enough  

Further reading

How unconscious forces drive our behaviour at work

How to eliminate procrastination

Don't fake it till you make it: the problem with toxic positivity

The power of taking a pause: why slowing down is far from failure

Challenging your thoughts: are they helpful?