How to Mindfully Balance Ambition with Contentment

Balancing Ambition with Contentment

Balancing Ambition with Contentment

The Buddha emphasised the ‘middle way’. And people often propose the value of ‘nothing in excess’.

So...with these principles in mind, how do you balance ambition with contentment.

This was a great question I had from @axzr on Twitter.

Contentment means satisfaction. Happiness with things just the way they.

Ambition is the drive to do. To succeed. To achieve things in life. It's about action. 

Too much ambition combined with doing mode is certainly a problem, which I wrote about in my last book.

But, a life of complete contentment would mean you’d never even get out of bed in theory (if you ever made it to bed in the first place!).

What's the answer?!

There needs to be a balance of these two opposing ‘forces’.

When I was studying Chemical Engineering at Imperial, I was highly driven in the first year. Highly ambitious. I worked my socks off. And it wasn’t easy, but I got a 1st class grade. Then, in the second year, again I was ambitious, but maybe it was waning a little, and I got a 2:1 (that’s like a grade B rather than A). Then, in the third year, I practised contentment...too much contentment. Not only did I not turn up to lectures, I hardly revised at all for the exams. Somehow I scraped through with a 2:2 (probably the equivalent of a grade D I think ). By the time I got to my final year, I’d worked out the right balance and left with a 2:1 and a smile.

So it seems balance is possible to find.

But can contentment and deep happiness really be balanced with lots of activity, drive and ambition?

Let's take another example. Matthieu Ricard. In brain scans, he was rated one of the happiness people ever tested. He was off the scale, content! And yet, he’s ambitious too!

Matthieu Ricard

Matthieu Ricard

He’s working hard everyday to serve others less well than himself in Nepal and Tibet and other countries. He has created an amazing charity and does much good.

So, ambition and contentment are not mutually exclusive.

Make time everyday to just be content...and make time everyday to reflect on what you want to do to make the world a better place, in your own way.

Finding time for contentment and ambition seems to be the secret - not choosing one or the other exclusively.

What do you think? Please use examples (made up ones if necessary) to illustrate your thoughts - thanks!