My ambition and my ability are not often in alignment. One exists in my present reality and one is beckoning to me from the future. Thankfully, I can change my present to get to the future.
Ambition is like a call. An innate sense of who and what I am or intend to be. It’s as much part of my blood and mindset as my DNA markers. What I desire or imagine becoming is vital to my sense of purpose and identity. So I don’t work on changing my ambition but I can improve my ability to achieve those ambitions.
Everything between where my current ability sits and what is required to achieve my ambition is simply the process of Becoming. Becoming the person who can achieve it. Simple.
Becoming is the most important task in all of this and yes, it can be the most daunting. The trouble is that we expect to find a straight forward process and follow a set pattern. We’re just not wired that way – unique and individual, we can learn from the becoming process of others, but we each need to follow our own journey. So here are a few tips on where to begin.
- Accept that true growth isn’t linear. Growing of any nature doesn’t happen at a slow, steady pace. It’s really not like working at a university degree, pace by pace as you go. Much like through childhood, growth comes in fits and starts, sometimes taking the long way round and other times shooting up fast as an arrow. You have to grow towards your ambition and it won’t likely be a straight line path. Get into a learning posture and accept that there will be curve balls along the way. The attitude you take towards personal growth is as important as the growing.
- Understand the difference between your goals and your overall ambition. We confuse ambition and goals all the time. A goal is something we want to do, an ambition is much closer to the person we want to be. My ambition is to become someone who helps people think well. If we change the way that people think about themselves, their relationships and our communities. I believe that when we change the way we think and approach problems, we can make more significant change to our world. My goal is to be a great communicator. There’s a difference here, between the what, who and the how.
- Embrace your ambition. In some parts of the world (New Zealand for example) we are intimidated by ambition. Our increasingly egalitarian view of the world struggles to separate an ambition from a desire for personal gain. It’s the stereotypical characteristics of ambition that we dislike – ideas that an ambitious person will be self-seeking, ruthless, untrustworthy in a team, always looking for opportunities to improve their position, climb further up the ladder. In other parts of the world, the attitude towards ambition is more positive. Ambition is a driving force that people can gather and collaborate around. Those who are ambitious are encouraged in their ‘Becoming’. Embrace the future-forward focus ambition gives you and surround yourself with people who can embrace it also.
- Pursue Self-Awareness. Do everything you can to learn about yourself, what you’re good at and strategies for improving and increasing your ability. Look for opportunities to learn what you do not know by keeping a close watch on the skills and talents of those you interact with. Surround yourself with people who have different and diverse skills from you. Learn from them – learn how they learn, how they teach, how they interact. Adapt, adopt and incorporate anything useful that fits your natural style. Understand your natural operating strengths by reading and practising.
- Use these practical tools for developing self-awareness:
Myers-Briggs Temperament Indicator.
Use the Johari Window exercise to get a sense of how you perceive yourself alongside how others perceive you. Engage with the unknown and the alignment gaps you discover.
- Behave as if you already have the ability to match your ambition. The other word for this is ‘Practice’. This is not free-for-all permission to become arrogant and over-confident but if your ambition is to be someone who teaches and educates, begin teaching as you go. If your ambition is to be a great team builder, start building teams. You’ll likely fail. That’s a vital part of the growing process. You won’t become a great novelist by publishing a book, you have to practice writing and character development first. So practice, whatever it is you hope to become on a daily basis.