Archive for May, 2013

Ambition and Contentment

May 21, 2013


Many may wonder how one can connect the above two opposite qualities in one idea. At the same time, at least some of us would be very happy to find a way of achieving both Ambition and Contentment in their lives. Yes, both are great virtues as per normal standards of human values. Both are difficult to achieve, but, are they really opposite? I would rather think, they are complimentary, and not opposites.

As per standard dictionaries,

‘Ambition’ means :-  Strong Desire – to be successful – usually needing hard work

‘Contentment’ means :- To be happy with what one has – not wanting any more

But what is success? Success is generally evaluated in terms of money and marketability. If one strikes money early in his path of ambition, the ambition suffers a premature demise. I know of a doctor whose ambition was to do cancer research. After completing his MD, he set up a consulting room.  He was very successful, especially, in terms of money. His ambition to do cancer research just dissolved in thin air.

Real ambitions are those which involve sacrifices. Mahatma Gandhi’s ambition was to see free India. He sacrificed his carrier as a barrister. His ambition was social reforms. He sacrificed his political career. His ambition was communal harmony. He sacrificed his life. If you are ambitious in one aspect of life, you need to be content in many other aspects of life. Otherwise, you cannot succeed.

Contentment means to be happy with what one has. But this does not give anybody any justification to be lazy and unproductive. Contentment in one aspect of life should always lead one to follow a forgotten pursuit in some other area. Thus contentment can at the same time be a cause and a result of an ambition. Contentment leading to inactivity, or trivial activity, is not a virtue at all. It is this base level of contentment and inactivity that has led Uttar Pradesh and other BIMARU states in India to remain poor and backward, in spite of fertile land, suitable climate, abundant natural resources and a high level of political patronage.

Contentment without ambition will lead to laziness and inactivity, whereas, ambition without contentment will lead to frustration.

In trying to be ambitious, one should avoid the following two situations:

  1. Donkey and Carrot situations: where we keep our pursuit on and on, going after a target which is moving away in phase with our pursuit.
  2. Mirage situation: Where the target is an illusion and not real, or rather not realistic.

Contentment will help you avoid the above the above situations. But, in the same way, while trying to be contented you should avoid the following two situations:

  1. Lollypop situation: where you set yourself an easy target and rest happily after the same is achieved.
  2. Rocking Chair Situation: where you sit and relax with total inactivity

When thinking of ambition and contentment, one more factor we must consider is the AGE. It is always said, you are as young as you feel. But there is no denying the fact, age takes a toll on both your physical and mental capabilities. Your capacity to learn and remember, your stamina and tenacity reduce considerably, as you pass the age of, say, 50. You also know, at the back of your mind, you have much less time to live and work. With reduced capacity and limited time, achieving your ambitions is a real challenge. Failure to acknowledge this challenge, will lead to stress and related health problems. That is the time when one should scale down his ambitions, with the help of contentment.

I will conclude with a well known prayer:

Oh Lord,

    Give me the courage to change the things I can

    Give me the humility to accept the things I cannot (change)

And please,

    Give me the wisdom to know one from the other 

L V Nagarajan

20 May 2013