Ambition is an underestimated force. It can drive, persuade your body to persevere, remind your mind why you are persisting with an unsatisfying occupation. In one’s hour of need, one’s ambition can give substance and meaning.
Equally, ambition can be a bitch.
As his wife flung herself from the roof of his castle, I doubt Macbeth gave thanks for his ambitious personality. It can cause downfall of epic proportions. Overpower less domineering character traits and suck the soul out of a person. Ambition can make you think it’s ok to give yourself completely to a goal, whilst giving reason to ignore all other valuable and necessary requirements on one’s energy.
After spending an evening teaching a children’s drama group, being paid well for something I am good at, ambition plays heavily on my mind. It was my ambition to act that made me good at acting, provoked me to actively search out and discover the theory behind the trade, and ultimately makes me successful at teaching. It was my deep-set desire to act that put me through 14 years of training.
At 18 I changed my mind. Tired of an unremittingly shallow industry, designed for the latter character type, whereby the priority must always be to get ahead. Tonight reminded me that my desire to act remains faithfully unchanged; it is my priorities that alter.
I think the achievement of one’s ambition is frequently mistaken for happiness. In a recent survey by Action Aid of the 10 things that make people happiest, none of the winning factors concerned career, life plans, or the achievement of ambition. Moreover, hearing the sound of the sea, receiving an unexpected compliment, or helping someone who needs us appear to be our top three pick-me-ups.
Like sugar, salt and all the best things, ambition seems to be best in moderation. Priorities change, but even dampened ambition remains. It’s worth holding on to, it’s even worth fighting for, but if it consumes you so that you forfeit happiness, it’s not worth it at all.