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When Ambition is Dangerous: The Downside of Success

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at U Ottawa chapter.

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Being a young woman with dreams and ambition, I strive for the best. I strive to bring out the best around me, the best of me and the best in me. I have a vision, and to concretize this vision, I try to align all of my efforts in a way for them to become a piece of the puzzle. I work to orchestrate it in a way that the piecing of this puzzle will come to reflect that which I envisioned. I am constantly trying to push myself beyond my limitations. I am an opportunist. When I see an opportunity, I use it to my advantage. For me, its all about stepping out of my comfort zone and into the unknown. Nonetheless, its the way I embrace the unknown, the way I utilize it, that determines the velocity of my progression. One day, I dream to achieve greatness.

Needless to say, I have plans. I have plans for the best of myself. Ultimately, its quite motivating. Its invigorating, really. However, as I have observed, as I have been taught, and as I am also experiencing, ambition and success can be as lethal as it can be good. The problem doesn’t necessarily lie in the dream itself, nor in the end result. The problem lies in the vehicle we use to get there; the state of mind in which we submerse ourselves. I’m talking about the mindset that leads us to believe that success is happiness. That we are defined by our achievements. That we are worthy only of that which we accomplish. Although it has the power to motivate us to do our greatest work, this state of mind also has the power to lead us into a state of misery.

I think we can all recall a time (or two) where we caught ourselves obsessing over a frivolous incident. What started off as a mere concern unnoticeably grew into quite the distress. Now even though the facts remained the same, our perception of the incident changed. Contrarily to what you may think, this is most likely not due to a genius insight. This disproportionate shift in perception is accredited to our minds, and that only. As we initially start to analyze the situation, our thoughts slowly start to unravel. Instead of observing the situation for what it is, and applying the knowledge we have to try to solve the issue, we start playing philosopher. We start making all these connections, and start developing ideas and theories to make sense of the who, what, when, where, how and why. Then, we start thinking about it… And over thinking it… And I mean really over thinking it. Now, by obsessing over it, we catch ourselves deviating from the initial issue. We are so consumed in our thoughts that we quickly lose sight of things. Something that initially should have been of minimal importance, has now taken a large toll on our lives.

I think I made it clear how easy it is to get sidetracked by our own thoughts. This is exactly what can happen to our perception of our goals and dreams. At first, we are stimulated. We see a sense of purpose to our lives, and the challenges ahead of us are motivating. However, as time passes, our minds unravel. We overthink what we do, what we want to accomplish, and how the end result will make us feel. We start to identify ourselves with our goals; we grow to think that they define who we are. Since we believe they define us, we start to fear that we can’t achieve them. If we can’t achieve them, then we are failures. We are not so worthy after all. This ignites stress and anxiety. This mindset consumes us, and takes away the fun in the journey. This mindset even prevents us from doing our best, since we now have fear and anxiety playing against us. Our state of mind can truly end up destroying the beauty of it all. Worst even, it has the power to take away the pleasure we should take in our achievements. It is troubling to think that something as trivial as our own minds can be guilty of such ruthlessness. Without even being aware of it, it is a sad reality that most of us experience on a regular basis.

The lesson here isn’t to give up on ambition. Ambition, hard work and success is important for personal growth and fulfillment. It has the potential to bring about happiness and contentment. Essentially, it gives a certain quality to our lives. Yet, success is not everything. It is far from being everything. Acknowledging, appreciating and rejoicing in all of lives little wonders is what will bring on true happiness. Truly living in the present and absorbing the beauty of life around us is our higher purpose. This is why it is important not to get caught in the havoc of our thoughts. We must always work towards having a clear mind. One that sees life for what it really is. One that is aware of its surroundings. One that does not allow life to pass them by without really delighting in all it has to offer.

This is why it is important to stay balanced. In this fast-paced world, it is not always easy, but it is doable. Find a practice that brings you to a place of serenity; a practice that frees your mind of all the nonsense that drags you away from reality. Weather it be walking, reading, running, yoga, meditation, find that practice. Find that practice, and practice it everyday. Give yourself the gift of presence everyday. You deserve to live life the way it was intended. You deserve to rejoice in its beauty and not let it pass by you unnoticed. All this, its all for you. Its for you to appreciate, its for you to enjoy, and its for you to find in it true happiness. Have goals. Have ambition. Dream up dreams and don’t be afraid to conquer the hell out of them. However, always remember to live, and that in the end, none of it really matters. Make it your goal, your dream and your purpose to look back on life in twenty, forty or sixty years from now, and know that you’ve truly lived. That you have truly taken the time to wallow in the beauty of life.


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