Something I've struggled with over the years is balancing ambition with acceptance and enjoying the present moment.
The Darkside of Ambition
I've always been told I'm extremely ambitious and I have seen it as one of my strengths...but it's really a double-edged sword. The positive side of ambition is that it is a powerful driver but constantly trying to get somewhere can become habitual and before we know it we stop enjoying the journey and taking in the view.
Pursuit of Progress
A couple of years ago I found myself always living in the future because of the big goals and dreams I wanted to achieve, it was like the present moment became subconsciously intolerable. My goals became all-consuming, they were the first thing I focused on in the morning and the last thing I thought about before bed. Desperate to close the distance between me & what needed to be done, I'd begin taking shorter breaks, missing meals and trying to squeeze every minute out of the day, all geared towards the pursuit of progress. As time wore on, I slowly started to lose all balance in my life. I'm sure any student can relate, but what dawned on me was that I wasn't in university anymore, and I was unknowingly endorsing a lifestyle that was stress & anxiety-inducing.
Loss of Perspective
Focusing all of my time and attention on my aspirations made me lose sight of the most important thing in life - the present moment and the people I share it with. It kind of makes sense because our focus goes on the things that are of the highest value to us, so if we constantly value what we want over what we have then the present moment and everything in it becomes devalued. It took me a long time to understand that I had lost my relationship and connection with just simply being.
To reconnect with the present moment and begin focusing on what really matters I'm trying to practise the subtle art of being grateful for all the small and wonderful things in my life. So when I wake up in the morning (not always, but I'm learning) I take inventory of everything I have and think about what would life be like if he was suddenly taken away. This lets me connect to the actual emotion of being grateful (not just the words) and substitute expectation for appreciation.
I remember watching a film called "Into the Wild" and at the end (SPOILER ALERT) he learns an incredibly powerful lesson which is that "happiness is only real when shared". That message always stuck with me so what good is it if we achieve all our goals and dreams but no one is left to share them with. Or, arriving at the summit to realise that the path you took has left you completely miserable and you can't even enjoy the fruits of your labour. With that said I'm getting to know both sides of ambition and that to have the best of both worlds, ambition can't be left to its own devices and there needs to be a sense of balance in everything we do. I love the analogy Matthew McConaughey uses when he talks about "tending our garden" - realising what is important to us and making sure we take steps to water our plants before they wither and die. These days I wake up and start the day with something I want to do. Something that brings me joy and it is something as simple as a morning walk. At the end of the day, I carve out an hour for myself (sometimes more) to unwind and begin curating the lifestyle I want to live.
Last week I was listening to one of my favourite speakers Ed Mylett who said that high achievers believe that they must keep some happiness in reserve so that they don't lose motivation and hunger to achieve more - they cheat themselves out of enjoyment and bliss, thinking it will STEAL their drive and ambition. The message resonated with me because it goes to the heart of striking this complex balance between ambition and acceptance. Ed talked about learning to live in a state of "blissful dissatisfaction" which is living in a state of bliss and happiness, at the same time being dissatisfied and desiring to get to the next level. One doesn't have to come at the expense of the other so if we can learn to be blissfully dissatisfied we're on the road to living a happy and fulfilled life.
Have a great week & we’ll catch up soon.
💭 Quote of the Week
“What's meant for you won't pass you by”
🎶 Song of the week
Maurice Jarre - Keating's Triumph (From "Dead Poet's Society)
🎤 Podcast of the week
The Power of One More - Ed Mylett
👨🍳 Recipe of the week
Eater - How LA's Honey's Kettle Has Been Perfecting Fried Chicken for 40 Years
😍 Highlights of the week
Writing this newsletter and reconnecting with you guys!
📽 Youtube videos this week
Preliminary Advice BEFORE applying for Pupillage