When Ambition Falters

Hi all – happy Sunday!

This past week, I feel like I’ve been in a bit of a funk with my life (in New York City, and in general). And naturally, this is due to comparison to other people, which is always the downfall. “Comparison is the thief of joy,” in the words of Theodore Roosevelt. I’ve been seeing all these men out with huge muscles, when I see people working in cafes, I assume they are writing the next best-selling book, or when I see other people reading on the subway, I’m mad that I haven’t been reading anything lately.

I know that comparing myself to other people is (literally) the thief of joy, but I can’t seem to stop. It’s hard not to, especially in a city like New York, where you can feel the ambition of everyone around you poring out from the sidewalks and the buildings.

There is a certain level of ambition within myself, I know this, but sometimes, even the biggest bit of progress doesn’t feel like enough. And even further, sometimes progress doesn’t feel like progress at all. Or quite literally, no progress has been made.

What they don’t tell you is that ambition doesn’t equate success. You can be ambitiously reaching for your goals, but until you achieve something, you will always only be reaching. And that’s not a fun place to be in.

There are two views about this:

  1. Optimistic
    • Setting goals can give you motivation to achieve the best version of yourself. Each goal is something positive to works towards, leading to success.
  2. Realistic
    • In reality, goals are also just highlighting the current lack that exists in your life. It’s the “always reaching” syndrome, but never quite achieving. It’s a limbo. Not at the beginning, not at the end. Stuck in the middle of the road.

Some examples of goals that I’ve shared before:

  • I want to write and publish a book
  • I want muscles
  • I want to read more

And for a while, creating those goals provided me the motivation that I needed to works towards achieving them. I was writing every day, I was going to the gym, and I was reading every day in the subway. But after a few weeks of not doing any of that, I’ve realized:

  • I haven’t written or published a book
  • I don’t have muscles
  • I’m not reading more

And while these three things don’t equate happiness, it would be nice to be able to stay on track to achieve the goals that I’ve set for myself, which seem to be the same goals over and over again. But I have some advice for those who seem to be a bit off track from reaching their goals.

  1. Think ‘Big Picture’
    • Thinking big picture, I know that I have made progress on my goals. I also know there are more important things in life than some of those goals. For example, this weekend, my family came to visit, and we had a great time together. That matters. I have an amazing boyfriend, and we just signed a lease on a new apartment together. That is good, and that matters. I need to think about the things that truly matter, and just wish for the best (and work hard) towards everything else.
  2. Re-Focus Yourself 
    • In other words,  I need to re-center myself and find my core again. It’s okay to reassess your goals. Maybe I don’t want to publish a book anymore (or at least, right now). Or maybe I need to think about the rationale behind my goals, and my plan to achieve them.
  3. Prioritize
    • When I first posted about goals, I had over a dozen goals that I was working on. I’ve come to realize that working on all of them simultaneously may be near impossible. Prioritize what’s most important and work on that first. Then, continue working from there.
  4. Relax
    • This one is (obviously) much easier said than done, but sometimes, you just have to know when to take a step back, sit on the couch with a good movie and a glass of wine. You have to know when to take a deep breath and when to tell yourself, “It’s okay that you didn’t reach your goal today.” And even more difficult – but you really have to believe it.

So for now, I think I’m going to start with the relaxing, a take a step back. I’m going to pick a good movie out on Netflix to end my weekend with. Tomorrow, I can focus on the other three areas. But until then, cheers until next week!


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