There’s a misconception that spirituality and ambition are somehow mutually exclusive and people who have ambitious goals, are not spiritual and/or unhappy with their current lives. Its perspectives like this that beg the question – Can you truly be spiritual and ambitious?
I contemplated this dichotomy in my own spiritual journey reflecting on my religious childhood and spiritual adult life. Growing up the messages from the great religious teachers were often used to encourage generosity and selflessness and warn against greed. Often this sent the message that wanting abundance was sinful especially when a humble life was portrayed as a great service. Years later as I explored my spirituality, many of my mentors spoke about ‘acceptance’ and complete surrender to ‘what is’ as key to remaining on the spiritual path. Some of my favourite passages speak about seeing the perfection in your surroundings – that everything is ‘as it should be.’
My initial review of my theological and spiritual understandings led me to believe that if I wanted to achieve and have more, I must not be grateful for my current life situation. Moreover, since ambition is from an “I want” perspective, than that must be the ego. My logical reasoning concluded that my increasing ambition and desire to achieve meant that I had veered from the spiritual path. But something told me it was not so black and white because I genuinely felt happy with my life and incredibly grateful for the miracles that were taking place around me.
Ego-based ambition (EBA)
People that aim for success to gain the love, respect and happiness they lack in their current state are driven by what I call ‘ego-based ambition’ (EBA). We are off the spiritual path when our ambition comes from feelings of discontent, inadequacy and other feelings of lack. Ambition rooted in unworthiness perpetuates more of the same emotions. Regardless of the amount of material success EBA may bring, we are left feeling dissatisfied and unfulfilled. You can likely think of someone that fits this profile – someone that has achieved incredible material success but is acutely unhappy. This is not the type of ambition I’m advocating here.
Spiritual-based ambition (SBA)
People that reach for greatness from a place of gratitude and overflowing self-love are expressing what I call ‘spiritual-based ambition’ (SBA). These individuals strive for excellence because it’s who they are. They are already happy and fulfilled and the passion and positive energy they express from living their purpose makes this world a better place. The difference between EBA and SPA is the knowing that nothing is lacking now that will be gained later. It’s the knowing that you don’t have to ‘be’ or ‘do’ anything to be worthy of all the love, abundance and happiness the universe has to offer.You can probably also think of someone that fits this description – someone that happily achieves. This person keeps the end goal in mind but focuses on making the journey beautiful.
What type of ambition drives you?
In his book ‘Think and Grow Rich’, Napoleon Hill suggests a ‘burning-desire’ is the first step of all achievement. His 25 year research into success found that a high level of ambition or desire is needed to take inspired and consistent action until one achieves their vision. However, knowing where that ambition comes from helps to determine whether the achievement of the goal will be a truly rewarding experience.
Take some time to reflect on what type of ambition drives you. Is it EBA (ego-based) or SBA (spiritual-based)? Ask yourself if your vision is a tool to prove yourself to others or whether its a vehicle to leave a legacy of service? I encourage you to reach for your vision from a knowing that you are magnificent and deserve everything good in life, that it is your birthright and that you already possess everything you need to succeed. Remember the first step in creating the life of your dreams is to believe you deserve it. I don’t need to know anything about you to say, from my heart to yours, and without a shadow of a doubt – YOU deserve it.
With so much love,