Sitting on his porch alone with nothing but his faithful dog he reflects back on his life. He climbed the ladder of success achieving all of his career goals as well as sitting on a nice nest egg of money. Yet, he is alone and feeling empty. Where are all the so-called friends, work-colleagues and executives who had once cheered him on? The family that surrounded him, now gone. Divorced and the kids grown living their own lives.
He sits and wonders, “Was it all worth it?”
Ambition. It is a great thing; in-fact needed in order to be successful in life. However, left unchecked it can be a wrecking ball to what is meaningful in life.
There are times I have coaching clients who come to me once all of the damage has been done. They are not coming for career advice, but rather life advice. They want to know how to put their lives back together. Their ambition had gone wild; they let it run them and it drove them right into a dead-end.
Researching the consequences of unguided ambition I came across an article from the Huffington Post written in 2014. I found it interesting in that all 10 of the ways ambition can trump a career I have seen happen in the lives of colleagues and clients.
Of all the 10 ways Evan Thompson identifies in the article the one thing that stands out is what people used to get to the top is what is missing when they find themselves at the bottom.
When young go-getters start out they believe they are invincible. Relationships are merely something they use to get to the next goal. As a result they are unable to build trusting relationships, impatience with others drives them to see everyone as a competitor, quick reckless decisions are made just to get the jump on someone else, and their personal lives fall apart leaving them with a life lacking fulfillment and full of regret.
The secret conversation with the boss to belittle someone who intimidates them, or a little gossip at the water-cooler, they don’t think anyone will find out, but they always do and relationships are damaged. The extra hours, volunteering for the business trip during the holidays, or taking on the extra project to get the advantage, they believe will never effect their family or marriage, but it does and it deteriorates.
The desire to be on top has a price, but it is generally much more than what is on the tag.
What is the answer? Should we not have ambition? Are goals bad? Is hard work and stepping up to the plate keys to an empty life? No! Not at all!
Have Healthy Ambition
- Attitude of Service
- If “you” are at the heart of ambition then a train wreck is just around the corner.
- “Others” focused will help maintain a healthy dose of ambition. Serving others with our gifts, talents and drive brings about a whole different end result than if everything we do is to serve ourselves.
- Don’t Compromise
- One of the first signs there might be an element of self-serving ambition in our lives is when we compromise what is right. Bend a rule or look the other way. Fudge a number here or leave a matter out of the report. Criticize someone behind their back, start rumors or take someone’s mistake and use it as a weapon against them.
- Always do what is right, no matter what anyone else is doing. Even if it isn’t going to reflect well on you, do what is right anyway. Honesty is what takes people to the top and keeps them there.
“Don’t let your talent take you to a place your integrity can’t keep you.”
- Ask “Why?”
- Self-reflection is critical to success. If we are always looking at others, judging what they are or are not doing, then we are on a slippery slope. We need to examine ourselves.
- When we are fighting for the next promotion or contemplating taking on a new project ask, “Why do I want this?” “How will this position/project effect my family?” “Will taking this role take me away from the things that are important to me?”
Ambition and drive are God given. He designed us with a desire for reaching for more out of life. To get to the end knowing our life was fulfilling and meaningful we must know and maintain our core convictions.
Keep God first, ensure family is our priority and serve others. Using our ambition to do these three things will help keep us from having Ambition Gone Wild.