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Your Ambition Isn’t Dirty So Why Do You Hide It?

Everyone says to follow your dreams, but no one mentions the A-word

By Jamie JacksonPublished 2 months ago 6 min read
Your Ambition Isn’t Dirty So Why Do You Hide It?
Photo by Ricardo Cruz on Unsplash

I’ve read a lot of self-help. Loads, mate. I’ve written a lot about it too. Even more loads, mate. I’ve attended personal development seminars and weekend events, and I’ve had two official life coaches. I’m no stranger to this world.

I’m that guy.

And in all that time, there’s one word I’ve failed to hear in self-help circles. One word that I can’t recall ever being talked about. A word which is almost dirty, and forbidden.

That word? Ambition.

You can have goals, sure, but ambition? That's associated with ruthlessness, it’s a word so loaded with cut-throat behaviour that it’s shunned, like an ostracised problem-child, to the back of the people’s minds.

But ambition needs to be talked about. Let's talk about it now!

For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a restlessness about life, a dissatisfaction following me around. It’s probably why I’ve delved so deeply into self-help, searching for answers.

Do you have it too?

What was this restlessness driving me mad? Why can’t I be happy or more grateful? Why can’t I be more present? Why do I consistently want more?

That’s ambition.

Or, more pertinently, that’s unaddressed ambition.

Can you relate?

For years I’ve felt isolated from friends and colleagues who were happy with their lot; a steady job, mortgage, the quiet life. I’ve been (and I am) in an objectively “better” financial situation than most of them and I still felt discontent.

In fact, all I felt was guilt. Why can they be happy and I just want more?

This was the theme of the first 40 years of my life. I’m not a miserable person, but I could not shake the unrest in my soul. It was like an explosion that kept on exploding, a fire that wouldn't go out, I wanted more. Is that ungrateful?

I always knew the problem was me, not anyone else. Everyone seemed to have access to a well of contentment and I didn’t even know its location. Nor did I have a bucket (I like this metaphor).

If you’ve ever felt like this, you’ll understand the maddening nature of it all; an endless frustration you cannot pin down, the inability to be satisfied, the chasing of something but not knowing what, the shame of not appreciating things more, always bothered by an itch you cannot scratch.

That, my friend, is ambition itching you. And it’s your gift.

Let me explain why.

Why your restless ambition is a superpower and how to use it

After a mediocre stand-up gig (I’ve been plugging away at comedy for a few years now) I phoned my wife on the drive home to vent.

I moaned about the gig, and then about how most people I knew didn’t even need to pursue difficult things apropos of nothing, so why did I?!

And then one sentence slipped out my mouth, “I feel like this because I’m ambitious.”

Kaboom. The epiphany hit.

I’d never applied that word to myself. Ever. Not in therapy, not in coaching, not in my “morning pages” or my daily podcast.

I’ve never used the A-word before or even thought about it.

I associated ambition with corporate aspirations, lawyers, and CEO’s. Jeff Bezos is ambitious. Not me. Solicitors trying to make partner are ambitious. Not me. Entrepreneurs are ambitious. Not me.

Except... I am ambitious.

Not everyone is, I grant you, but if the restlessness haunts you as it haunts me, ambition can explain a lot of your thought processes.

The epiphany was a cascade of thoughts aligning in my head and it showed me the truth. My restlessness and frustration weren’t ingratitude, it was ambition.


When an epiphany comes everything else suddenly makes sense. I saw Tim Grover’s book ‘W1nning’ on Audible and I downloaded it. It’s all about ambition, all about that dirty word no one else mentions. It’s the sort of book I would have dismissed out of hand just days before. But now, I listened, and boy did it all make sense.

There’s a line in it where Grover writes;

“No one chose you. You chose yourself.” – Tim S Grover

I expect great things from myself and I’m not delivering because I didn't connect the dots and identify that feeling as ambition.

I was so busy looking for peace and love in my personal development journey that I denied who I am; ambitious. Competitive. Driven.

Ambition is mentioned in hushed tones and loaded with shame. Grover says otherwise. Every word in his book describes the feelings I have. None of it was sugar-coated. None of it was about peace, unless it was peace within yourself, none of it was about love unless it was the love of winning.

Does that sound selfish? It is.

But is it more selfish than the endless indulgence in self-help? Is it more selfish than loving yourself, or cutting out “toxic” people?

Recognising the ambitious fire within you cuts away the bullshit. Ambition clarifies the mission, it defines the parameters for failure, and it tells you to get up and fucking deliver.

Winning isn’t just about sport or business. Winning can be about friendships, relationships, and creating a good life. The determination to create that life. It's about being the best at whatever you care about.

I have great friends, an amazing wife, and a wonderful family and I ruthlessly sought them out. My ambition in these areas knew no bounds. I nurtured friendships and made huge efforts to keep those friendships alight. I worked tirelessly on my faults every time a relationship fell apart. I’ve dedicated a lot of years to fixing myself, with therapy. That’s the way I am. That’s part of my ambitious streak.

Ambition doesn’t have to be about profits and trophies, it’s about having a goal and by hook or by crook, achieving it.

Look at an area of your life you’re happy with right now. Did ambition get you there? I bet it did.

If so, why is ambition “bad”?

What about the areas of your life where you are frustrated? That will be areas of unmet expectations where ambition waits to be fulfilled.

Ambition drove me to have friends and relationships, but it’s also led me to consistently bang my head against the wall when it came to money and career because as much as I wanted more, I didn’t want corporate success. That was never my ambition. I wanted more outside of a corporate treadmill. But somehow I thought this was shallow, or worse, egotistical.

I’m sure my working-class guilt played a part too, but for whatever reason, I didn’t have a deficit in gratitude, I had a deficit in action. My restlessness was unfulfilled potential and I was driving myself mad because I was denying my innate, inbuilt ambition.

God wants you to be great

If there is a God, if there is a spiritual level to life, it wants you to live, and thrive. It wants you to be the best version of yourself. It won’t want you to waste life.

Ambition is not at odds with spirituality.

God wants you to be great.

Your ambition is there for a reason, it is part of your intuition, it is the compass guiding you. Why else were you born with it?

I’ve never been able to settle. I’ve always felt I could be more, known I could be more, and I’ve been perpetually disappointed in not living up to these expectations given to me as a gift.

That’s right, they were given to me.

Ambition is the gift.

If you have this same restlessness, you’ll understand. You won’t even question these words as the feelings will be so familiar.

Those ambitious feelings can drive you mad, but they can also save you if you follow them. They’re a potent energy source. In fact, ambition is a straight-up superpower. But you can’t use your superpower unless you know you’ve got it, unless you admit what it expects from you. Unless you start living up to its high standards.

A large part of suffering is not being everything you can be and knowing it.

Ambition asks big things from you. Perhaps it’s time for you, and I, to live up to who we know we really are.


About the Creator

Jamie Jackson

Between two skies and towards the night.

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Comments (1)

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  • Charlene Ann Mildred Barroga2 months ago

    I can really relate to this post since I've had trouble accepting and appreciating my own goals without feeling self-centered or guilty. It's encouraging to see someone take aim at this subject and see ambition as a potent driver of development and fulfillment on a personal level.

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