If there’s something I’ve always been accused of, it’s that I’ve got no ambitions in life. That I’m wasting myself, that my potentials go unrealised.
In short, I don’t have A Thing, and if I did have A Thing, I wouldn’t spend my days bumbling around, walking into things aimlessly and wasting time on trivialities and fripperies and moaning about everything else in the world.
I’ll contend that this makes me a far less dangerous person. Have you seen what happens when people have ambitions? It can get untidy.
Let’s say I had an ambition to be something big in the world of finance. We can all see where that gets us – hundreds of thousands of ambitious young people dive into banking, the markets, big business, to make themselves unspendable quantities of moolah, to accrue power and influence and a say – no matter how tiny – in the way the big economic wheel turns. Greater and greater feats are accomplished, greater and greater risks taken. The adrenaline flows, the bank accounts grow fat, the sense of accomplishment and achievement are fatter yet.
And the whole thing blows up in our faces.
And more. Let’s look at politics. No more ambitious they that lust after the keys to changing the way we live our lives. How many people who wanted to make a difference ended up making a difference? And how many more of us regretted that they did?
Despite all this, there’s another downside to ambition, and it’s a far more personal one than the two sketchy examples I’ve given. Ambitions drive people, and this is said to be a good thing, more or less. There are few worse things than aimless and directionless lives, where talents are wasted, where the days flow together into one big session down the pub, the snooker hall, the cinema, where the potentialities of myraid lives are squandered in the mundane advance of the years.
I suggest this. Ambitions by-and-large are habit forming. They give us a target, something to grasp at, a mission in life. They create the mistaken idea that the most worthwhile things are the things not yet attained, that the need to have something outweighs the efforts expended, and the alternative paths ignored in the pursuit. And with this mindset established, once one ambition is realised, another is required to fill the vacuum, another thing not yet done becomes the mission, and the objective of life becomes perpetually somewhere else, off in the distance, seperated from the here by ways and means, and hard work, and application. Never is there satisfaction. We live forever in the future, and the past becomes a list of achievements, a CV of a life, rather than a life lived.
I have one ambition, and it is one that I acheive every new moment. It is the most attainable mission anybody can have in their lives, it is one more rewarding than any other, and it never sours. My ambition in life is to be happy, simply happy, and to make the people I know and love happy as well, no matter how much I might fail, I can keep trying, and that’s a mission that isn’t going lose people their jobs, or impose on them even more bizarre and well-meaning laws, or crush them in the chase for the better job, the bigger salary, the greater recognition. It’s a cliche, but the biggest cliches are so overused because they are profoundly true – live in the present. Live now.
Anything on top of this is just gravy.