I used to think of myself as ambitious. After graduating high school I hit the ground running. I had goals I wanted to achieve and I immediately set about working towards them. My ambition was a source of pride, both for me and for my family. My sisters and I were encouraged to aim high. Ambition was a value in my family and it was one I readily embraced.
So I worked hard and achieved my goals. I earned my master's degree in five years and became licensed as an independent practitioner of clinical social work two years later. I bought a house and settled into a job I enjoyed. I got married at 28 and was ready to enjoy a comfortable life with my husband. I was content.
And so I've continued to enjoy the life I've made for myself. I am actively pursuing two goals (in partnership with my husband): selling our house and buying a bigger one and having a baby within the next one to two years. Perhaps these aren't as lofty as the goals I once had but I'm okay with that.
I am, for the most part, satisfied with my life. Unfortunately, my husband is not. He is firmly convinced that we need to make more money if we're going to live comfortably. He devotes a significant amount of his free time to buying things, fixing them up, and selling them for a profit. He has also taught himself photography and occasionally takes jobs photographing weddings, family portraits, private events, etc.
I don't have a problem with my husband's extracurricular endeavors and I only interfere when I notice that we're running out of room to store his current projects. My husband believes, however, that I should devote as much time as he does to earning extra money.
This has brought me to the following realization: I am not as ambitious as I once beleived. I have no desire to spend my free time trying to earn extra income. I enjoy having time to relax, to wake up on the weekends and have no obligations. To me, the luxury of not having to work all the time is one of the hallmarks of a comfortable life (and I'm living it already)!
As it turns out, ambition is not one of those things that tends to decrease over time. In their 2012 article, Judge and Kammeyer-Mueller explain that ambition is a trait that remains stable throughout life; it does not disappear once a person has acheived a certain level of success. From this I conclude the following: if I am not ambitious now then I probably never was.
Judge and Kammeyer-Mueller define ambition as striving for "worldly success," things like status, rank, and material wealth. Ambition is not, they are careful to stress, concerned with less tnagible achievements like wellbeing, sense of purpose, or happiness.
So now I must admit to myself that I am not, nor have I ever been, particularly ambitious. I strove for a certain level of attainment - a college degree, a career in mental health, a comfortable home, a sufficient income - and I achieved it. I've never wanted to be "rich" (whatever that means these days). Yes, I enjoy having a certain level of comfort but I don't need a bunch of expensive toys to be happy.
Lately this has been a point of contention between my husband and I. In fact, we discussed it again last night. "You have absolutely NO ambition!" he exclaimed in frustration. And I guess he's probably right.