In the face of this global pandemic, one casualty many have had to endure is the death of ambition. A recent, frankly fantastic, Medium post that went a bit viral a few days ago, captured it rather well from one person’s perspective. But, as I read through the article, I was struck by a couple of key things that, when we see the world through the lens of joy, become much easier and allow for ambition to rise from the ashes if it has already died or to grow and thrive if you have been able to keep it alive, even if it is on a respirator.
First, and probably most importantly, when we view the world through the lens of joy, we can see that your ambition didn’t die. It didn’t go anywhere at all, in fact. It may have dimmed. You may be struggling to touch it, but it is still there, alive and well, just waiting for you to rediscover it–no different than your cell phone on an average Sunday morning. What has happened though, is that the complexities of pandemic life have brought your attention to the fact that the real you, your authentic self in its full glory and authentic leadership presence, has not yet had a place to go. So, if you are feeling lost in this whirlwind of evolution with pandemics shutting down entire nations, leaders abusing their powers in the name of their ego, and enough people numb to the ignorance of their inhumanity, and you are out here wondering what are you going to do, then joy is here for you.
And, just so we’re crystal clear, not in the “Kumbaya, joy has all the answers” kind of way. But, rather, in a “trust in the power of your joy and it will shift your soul” sort of way. Because, it is the only secure path you can follow. Effectively, answer me this:
If you have goals and aspirations and ambitions to be or do something, are you more likely to do that by making lists and hitting bullet points or by being in the best place you can be and letting the results speak for themselves?
Moving Forward With Joy & Ambition
If you are stuck on the former, then that is why your ambition may be suffering. If you can join me on the latter, we might just have a way for you.
But, before jumping into that, there are a few things that I need you to know first:
- Joy is not happiness. Happiness is fleeting and like a morning coffee caffeine kick. It’s fine for a moment, but is grossly insufficient for the journey.
- Joy comes from within and not outside of you. In fact, if it does not bubble up from within, then it is most certainly not joy. It is most likely happiness (see point #1)
- The productive power of joy is in naming and honoring all of your lived experiences of whole self. It is not something to be learned in a textbook. Nobody has the answers but you.
So, with our ground rules out of the way let’s begin.
The reality is that COVID has forced us into our homes and a shifted way of life. For most, there isn’t much happiness in this. The external stimuli of happiness, like going to bars or on vacations has been diminished. But, in it’s place is the opportunity for joy to emerge. By spending time with one’s self, we are better able to hear the cries of our true self, our Whole Self. Who are we really when we can no longer distract ourselves with the pursuit of happiness outside? It is for this reason that many people are actually very contented in this new COVID world of ours – it has allowed them to learn and develop more of who they truly are and who they truly want to be. One leader even said in a recent session that COVID has allowed them to learn how to love their family better than they ever have before – that’s simply beautiful and the joy in it is clear.
Understanding Ambition Through Joy
So, what does this have to do with ambition? Well, ambition, almost by definition, implies that you are trying to hit a number of bullet points. You are operating on a schema that demands outcomes and deliverables. Your ambition is being measured by how much stuff you get off of your to-do list each day. And, while this might be a fine way to measure performance in a regular state of the world, it isn’t fully relevant to today’s realities.
Instead, because of the new world that we are all still trying to fully settle into, a re-exploration of what ambition and performance even mean any more is needed. And, how better to do so than through the lens of joy? If what you are expressing outwardly as your ambition and performance isn’t rooted in joy, in who you truly are, and informed by the entirety of your lived experience, then what you are ambitioning and performing for? Whose model are you operating against if it isn’t your own? And, why would you do that when the world has so strongly encouraged and invited you to recalibrate.
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our first Not A White Paper But A Joy Paper
If you can take this time to get back to self, figure out who you truly are through joy, then the ambition and the performance naturally fall out. Why wouldn’t you have endless ambition and perform at an incredibly high level if every day you were waking up to be even more fully yourself? There is no obstacle there, only the challenge and motivation of doing better each day. From this, naturally, also emerges persistence, which, at the end of the day, is what the article is really about and what serves to further support ambition and performance over the longer term.
Not surprisingly, the key to your ambition is joy. Even if you can unlock that, ambition, performance, persistence, and all the other outcomes we look for implicitly in our bullet pointed to-do lists emerge naturally. We no longer have to choose which of these to focus on and, instead, trust that they will manifest of their own accord so long as we stay true to our joy. The more we are able to do this, the more we are positively reinforced as we get to see it come true day after day after day. And, it is from this, that daily ambition is elevated to levels that, currently, we at Big Joy Theory, as well as many of us, are yet unable to even imagine.