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Ambition is about meaning. Not about money, status or climbing the career ladder.

Yesterday I hosted a free online workshop on how to combine your ambitions with finding a healthy work- life balance. And what became very clear from the conversation we had about ambition was that for the participants being ambitious is not about money or status or about just wanting to climb the career ladder. No it was about meaning. Far more important was their ambition to make a difference in their work and in their private lives. To find meaning in what they are doing.

Last Thursday I gave a talk at the BCF career event to a packed room full of driven, ambitious people. My talk was about the Myths of finding your passion. I shared several myths and then asked the audience which of these myths paralyzed them the most. You know which one it was? The myth that you have to find your passion in order to live a meaningful life. Here as well was the importance of making a meaningful contribution in their work and private lives!

That is what ambition is about. Ambition is about wanting to make a difference, wanting to make a meaningful contribution! And yesterday’s conversation during the online workshop showed this feels all the more urgent and important when you are coming back from a place of burnout. Or when you are in job that drains you. Then making a meaningful contribution is no longer optional. It becomes vital, crucial!

Living and working from a place of meaning is about following what lights you up, what you are curious about. Because then you will be doing precisely those things where you can add the most value, make the biggest contribution. You won’t make the biggest contribution by trying to fit the narrow mould of having to have a clear passion and a linear career path.

Living and working from a place of meaning is ALWAYS about a combination of what gives you energy and joy & making a difference. To your colleagues/clients/organisation, your community and in the lives of your loved ones.

It is NEVER about going above and beyond to help others but loosing your own joy and energy while doing it.

It is NEVER about becoming better and better in living up to other people’s expectations of what you should do while you feel yourself drifting further and further away from yourself and how you want to show up in the world.

Sometimes the first step is to making a meaningful contribution is to give yourself permission to quit something that really drains you. To quit doing what steals your energy and joy. So you can free up space and energy to make your contribution in a different way.

One of yesterday’s participants talked about how she volunteered for a cause that was really close to her heart. That she really wanted to make a difference there. But that it actually turned out to be a draining experience, because the way the committee wanted to work and how she was expected to contribute did not give her joy or energy. It felt like her wings were cut. That she could not use her unique talents, skills and personality. So yesterday she made the decision that she was going to quit this committee and look for other ways in which she could contribute to this cause. Ways that would give her energy and joy.

Always start from that place. That place of energy and joy. And then ask yourself …how can I make a difference today?

Make it small.  A small action, a few words today that can make a difference.

Maybe it is calling a client or colleague and asking them about what small changes could have a big impact on the value your work brings to them? Or asking a client or colleague about their biggest frustration or problem. And brainstorm ways in which you - from a place of energy and joy - could alleviate part of that frustration or problem.

Maybe it is starting your day with doing the thing that has the most impact in your work, instead of pushing it to the end of the day when you have less energy and focus.

Maybe contributing today is sending a text to a friend who is going through a difficult time.

So live your ambitions….
How can you make a difference today, one small action at a time?

Want to know more about ambition, meaningful contributions and finding balance? Join my free online workshop on June 4 or June 18.  (also valuable if you are not working in academia!)

Wishing you a beautiful day!

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