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Why ambition isn’t always a dirty word

Written by

Jessica Marrazzo

Posted on

September 3, 2021

When you hear the word ambition, what thoughts spring to mind? The Cambridge dictionary defines ambition as ‘a strong wish to achieve something’. Interestingly, it’s not linked to the notion of a career or professional goals – the concept is much more complex than that. 

When working in the corporate world, the traditional career structure encourages us to climb the ladder. Often, we find it’s a linear path that encourages us to work towards that next pay rise or promotion. Depending on the environment, it can sometimes feel competitive as our peers are racing their ways to the top. What’s more, our years are punctuated with constant markers of progress and congratulations, from appraisals to awards and bonuses. It’s a concept that’s so ingrained in business culture, that it’s become synonymous with the concept of ambition.

When you work for yourself, things look slightly different. Ambition isn’t quite as clear cut. For starters, you’re the boss. You have to be the one that celebrates your progress and reminds yourself why you’re doing it. The career ladder isn’t quite as linear, it’s more squiggly. And while it’s easy to compare yourself to what your peers are doing on the market, essentially you’re the one who is setting the goals for your business. Being ambitious in this context could also mean striving to make life changes. Perhaps you’re looking for more flexibility. Or maybe you’d simply love to craft a career that allows you to live next to the sea and go surfing before your 10am meeting.

Both avenues have their own pros and cons. Essentially, you’ll feel most comfortable achieving in the area that best suits your personal identity and aspirations. Whichever environment you find yourself in, it’s possible to foster a healthy level of both professional and personal ambition. Here’s how. 

Establish what you really want

We’re most satisfied when we’re working on things that feel most meaningful to us. So take a moment to consider what you really want, both at work and at home. The clearer you are on this, the more likely you’ll be able to grow to reach your goals. If you’re unsure of what you truly want, try a vision setting exercise. Or if you’re torn between a few options, perhaps it’s time to sit down with your advisory board to get clarity on your ideas. 

Keep the momentum going

The very nature of ambition suggests that you need to keep moving forward. Sometimes, this could mean periodically setting specific and attainable goals. But it also means being willing to take risks every so often. According to psychiatrist Neel Burton, success requires us to “act with purpose, but allow ourselves room to explore, experiment and discover” as we go along. 

Learn from different viewpoints

When we have ambitions, we learn to be resourceful. Perhaps for you that means taking the time to upskill in an area that you’d like to move into. Or maybe it’s dedicating time to connecting with other industry professionals that can offer you a different perspective (our Slack community is a great place to start). It’s a way of fuelling our growth in unexpected ways.

Compete with yourself

Feeling like you’re constantly in competition with others can take its toll on your mental health over the long run. Try not to compare yourself with others – whether it’s with your professional peers or other small business owners. While we can all learn from each other, we’re all on different journeys. When you measure your success against your own capabilities, you’ll feel free to celebrate all those milestones along the way.

Enjoy the journey

The beauty of both our lives and careers is that we’re all on a journey together. When it comes to our careers, there’s not necessarily a final destination that we’re heading for. There’s always something new to explore and a new target that we could be reaching. In the end, the secret to happiness and fulfilment is growth across all areas of your life. So, remember to take a moment to appreciate how far you’ve come and enjoy the lifestyle you’ve created.

Are you an experienced fashion & luxury professional looking to make your next flexible career move? We have a growing community of consultants that are on the same journey, and we’d love for you to join us. Sign up for free here

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