Contentment Versus Ambition

A few weeks ago Ann offered contentment as an intention for CPY2 class, and encouraged us to try new poses even as we focused on being content with where we found ourselves in our yoga practice that day. That got me thinking about the tension between contentment and ambition and wondering if you can be both content and ambitious at the same time. 

contentment versus ambition


Balancing Contentment With Ambition

If contentment and ambition were on a sliding scale, I’d put myself on the content end. That may seem odd coming from a type A over-achiever, but I am driven more by a desire to do my best rather than striving to achieve specific goals. I actually am pretty bad at goal setting, although I think some of that has to do with fear of failure. 

The tension between contentment and ambition comes up with weight loss goals. Experts say that you should love yourself as you are, but can you really embark on big lifestyle changes without desperately wanting something different? I think it would be much easier to take a leap and change careers if I were unhappy at my job than to leave a position where I was content. And we’ve all heard stories of people who overcame alcoholism and drug addiction only after hitting rock bottom.

How do you motivate yourself to make sacrifices to reach a goal when you are content where you are? I am content with my race paces (and with my not-quite-race-paces) and not willing to do tempo runs or track workouts to get faster. I am not content with my lingering plantar fasciitis, so I am willing to dedicate more time to more treatment and stretching and foam rolling in earnest. 

On the other hand, I am content with my yoga practice where it is, but still look forward to advancing. I am content not being able to do a headstand, but would not be content if I couldn’t keep trying. I don’t have an ambition to stand on my head with my legs straight up in the air, but I am willing to work towards it and see if I can make it happen.

Deb Runs

Today’s Wednesday Word is content.
Check out Deb’s link up and see if others are feeling content today.

Do you think you can be both content and ambitious?

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23 Responses to Contentment Versus Ambition

  1. Wendy says:

    This would actually have been a good topic for me to tackle. Contentment is truly a work in progress for me right now. In the past year, I’ve had to deal with a diagnosis that has slowed me down and a job change that was a bigger struggle than I expected. I’m moving towards contentment in both areas. It’s hard to let go of forward progress when you are a type A person, right? Like you I don’t really set goals but I am an achiever and I am ambitious. The key is going to be balancing both.
    Wendy recently posted…In Pursuit of Happy JointsMy Profile

  2. Interesting post, Coco! I think contentment has a lot to do with being present (as I wrote on Deb’s blog), while ambition is about looking to the future. And although I think it’s more important to live in the now, you don’t grow as a person if you’re not ambitious about something.

    So yes, I think both can work together!
    Judy @ Chocolaterunsjudy recently posted…Can you be content . . .My Profile

  3. Kimberly G says:

    I’m very similar to you – as long as I know I have done by best, I am content with any outcome. PRs are great, but they don’t always happen, and that’s okay!
    Kimberly G recently posted…New York City Marathon – Yay or Nay?My Profile

  4. I think you can be content with your progress and feel good about where you are but at the same time be motivated to achieve more goals. That’s what keeps me going

  5. HoHo Runs says:

    This was a tough word for me. I think we all have areas in our lives where we are truly content. But, I also think there are areas we are not content with and they drive us to make changes. I don’t think we have to declare that we are either content or ambitious. I am definitely a mixed bag.

  6. This is something I have battled (?) for awhile, but finally came to a catharsis of sorts. Like you, I’m quite content with my speed/pace, but I would like to be a tad bit faster…..I’m just not willing to do MUCHO extra work to make it happen because it’s not my life’s ambition. Great post!!
    Kimberly Hatting recently posted…I’m ContentMy Profile

  7. As long as I put forth my best effort, I cannot be upset with myself. Every day we face different circumstances, and some day will be better for us than others. But if I don’t put forth my best effort, then I can only be disappointed in myself.
    Kathryn @ Dancing to Running recently posted…Princess Half Marathon PlaylistMy Profile

  8. This is a super interesting concept and definitely made me think! I”m trying to go toward the content end of the spectrum this year!

  9. Rachel says:

    Huh. Well that’s a humdinger! I’ve never really thought about it. But I think for me, no… maybe. I’m not sure, actually. But I have to say when I’m hungry for a PR and I’m super ambitious, I’m not content at all. But when I’m tired and all good with accomplishments, then I’m rather content. So I dunno? Haha.
    Rachel recently posted…Runners: You Need to Foam Roll!My Profile

  10. Hannah says:

    I totally think you can be both—I love reading through your thought process.
    It’s definitely prompted some deeper thinking!

  11. Clarinda says:

    What a great question? I do see how contentment can be a barrier, but I still think I’d prefer it in a lot of cases. Does that mean I’m not ambitious? Hmmm. I’ll have to give this a bit more thought. Great post, Coco!
    Clarinda recently posted…Weekly Wrap – Feb 4My Profile

  12. Andrea says:

    Oh man, I feel you on the struggle with these. I’m Type A as well and for me, I’ve come to accept that I’m truly happiest when I’m busy and have a lot on my plate. But I’ve learned that what I put on my plate has to have purpose. I can’t just be busy with tasks for the sake of filling my time.

  13. Pingback: Zero Week: 2/5- 11 Weekly Wrap | Chocolaterunsjudy

  14. Great post, Courtney, and you pose a great question. I think you can easily be both content and ambitious. Content with the present, but ambitious to work to be the best that you can (and want to) be.

    Thanks for linking up!
    Debbie @ Deb Runs recently posted…Breaking Down The Five Components Of An Exercise RoutineMy Profile

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