The Rise & Fall of Ambition

By nature we want the biggest, baddest & bestest prize we see. It’s like the State Fair and everyone wants the overstuffed, oversized prize we don’t have room for, but that’s the one we want to win. Never the pocket dolphin, always the six-foot, floppy-eared puppy.

Even in our personal lives, we think about prizes & goals much the same way. After tonight I’ll never drink again . . . Just signed up at the gym, I’m gonna look like Arnold . . . When I hit the lottery, I’ll never work again . . . From now on I’m only eating non-processed, gluten-free, non-GMO foods . . . Herschel Walker did 1,000 push-ups a day, so will I . . . 5K? I’m training for Ultras . . .  We might chuckle to ourselves when we hear someone else with similar ambitions, but admit it, most of our “goal planning” is little more than gaping & gawking at the over-stuffies at our internal State Fair.

There’s nothing wrong with dreaming big, and there is even less wrong with working big. What trips us up is that our internal regulator gets stuck in a feedback loop of Go big or go home. To be fair, Work consistently & persistently and stay in the game doesn’t have the same melodic logic, so why would we think that way, much less act that way?

Watch me struggle to lift a 45lb bar off the ground. Now listen to me gloat about how I’m giving myself a month to deadlift 600lbs. You can see the problem here. Why can’t I?

Would you tell me that deadlifting 600lbs is impossible, that I shouldn’t even bother? No, after watching me grunt & strain with the 45lb bar, you’d probably encourage me to keep working on that weight for a while. How long? As long as it takes, you’d probably say. Once the bar gets easy, slap some plates on there and start working your way up, I can hear you saying.

Would you laugh at me if I came back to you a month later and showed you that I could now deadlift 75lbs? Probably not. You’d probably congratulate me on sticking with it, and acknowledge my accomplishment. Maybe you really are. Would you also be proud if this situation were a portrait of you? What if you struggled with 45lbs last month and were doing 75lbs this month?

We tend to be critical of ourselves for accomplishments for which we’d genuinely praise others. Nevermind the psychology of Why (think ‘Ego v. Self-Compassion’), it’s enough for us to acknowledge and accept that this is the way we are and move on from there.

Our goals need not be excessively grand & glorious to be significant. Consistency & persistency are the first orders of business. Once those are in place, gravity is just another chump in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Semper Fortis, always strong


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