Careful Ambition

A new year always comes with new hopes and expectations, but how much do we actually need to do to be successful and feel good in 2018? And does it depend that much on setting the right goals?

About this time last year, I wrote a list of goals for 2017. I put in there practical goals that could be measured like “write a new book” and more challenging goals that were more difficult to quantify, like “connect more with people”.

I achieved most of them and it felt good. But then other unpredictable things happened and they brought me a different kind of joy, unhoped for and yet wonderful. I adopted a cat. I sowed a new garden. I planted some trees.

If there’s something I learned last year, it’s that we should be careful with our goals and resolutions. If we make them too ambitious, too self-centered, we may miss out on the world of possibilities around us.

When we focus too much on one thing, we see in one direction only. We may need that at times, just to stay sane in a hectic world. But if we do it all the time, we become taut. And when we’re taut, we can break.

That’s one of the reasons I’m really taking my time with the books I’m writing. Today it’s easy to get a book published (at least online, at least with your own money). But actually writing a book remains the same endeavor that it has always been, one that transcends the page. I no longer struggle to write the book I’ve been writing for many years. Now I leave it to write itself through me. Even if it’s going to take a few more years.

I haven’t written down any goals or resolutions for 2018 yet. It’s not that I don’t want to be effective this year. I want to make it the richest year I have lived so far, in my own quiet and patient way.

Written goals and resolutions certainly do our memory good, and in many cases, they make us more effective. But they are more like road signs than destinations. Even if they lead us closer to self-fulfillment, there’s never a goal that will end all other goals. Goals and resolutions will keep guiding us, and haunting us.

Will we do all that we want to do this year? There are people among us who don’t follow the trodden paths, who wonder and who search, who suffer and rejoice while life ebbs and flows around them.

Through choice or circumstance, these people have to skirt the precipice time and time again. They need to be their own best friends instead of their worst enemies.

They are not “special” or “better than the rest”. They have faults. They are only different, not only in their own minds, but physically – they have been tuned to a different sensibility, which can be a blessing and a curse.

You may be one of them. You may have set yourself inspiring goals. That’s great. Remember only that much of what’s  wonderful in life happens in the background.

Personal success can be a cold and lonesome peak. Being there all the time can be unhealthy. This year let’s not be more busy and more ambitious than we have to.

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4 thoughts on “Careful Ambition

  1. Your paragraph about “focusing too much in one direction” resonated with me. Especially when you said, “And when we’re taut we can break.” Thank you for your thought provoking post.

  2. This year i opted like you. I still have no goals written. I intend to see and enjoy every bit of this year ( with a broader view). Thanks for the post! I feel happy knowing someone thinks like i do. Good luck with your book.

  3. I’ve given up on resolutions a few years ago and have scribbled down what are roughly some guidelines. It’s only too easy to be discouraged when things don’t go our way as we hoped it would be. We gotta “just keep swimming”, finding alternate routes and sometimes that may mean pushing past stubborn tides. Excellent post, Vincent 🙂 I hope you have an unexpectedly delightful year ahead.

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