Do you view yourself as ambitious? If so, how do you define ambition?

Recently, I heard Whitney Johnson reference an article that asked the question “Do Women Lack Ambition?” And I found myself having a strong reaction to the question.

It’s complicated.

It depends on how you define and describe ambition. If ambition is shown through financial income and social status alone, perhaps the answer is yes. It may appear, especially on the surface and from the outside, that some women lack ambition.

In my twenties, for example, I didn’t seem particularly ambitious to others. And, I didn’t consider myself particularly ambitious.

I didn’t have any big career dreams, plans, or goals. I didn’t aspire to a six figure salary or corner office.

My husband and I worked hard and enjoyed life’s simple pleasures: a really good takeout pizza, a Sunday afternoon walk through the woods with a friend, snuggling  while watching our VHS collection of the X-files.

In retrospect, it seems that we had plenty of ambition. I have to remind myself of all we accomplished: we started and led a church (!);we met with people nearly every night for Bible studies or mentoring; I worked full time. We rode our bikes, on two separate trips, around 500 miles each time, carrying our own gear. (Ambitious, right?)

I had energy — loads of it — and I am quite proud of how I extended it in positive, if not traditionally “ambitious” ways.

Without energy, passion, and enthusiasm, there is no ambition. 

In my 30s, I channeled my energy into my children, almost exclusively.

As a stay at home parent and homeschooling mom, each individual day held few lasting signs of my day’s accomplishments. In fact, most evenings when I fell asleep, my home looked even more disheveled than it had in the morning. If you measured my ambition by the cleanliness or neatness of my home, you might have imagined I had none. And when I crashed on the couch only moments after tucking my girls into bed, you might have also imagined that I had no energy, either. You might have thought I wasn’t achieving anything.

In retrospect, I can see evidence of my ambition: I organized my friends into a casual preschool co-op, then later initiated and led a multi-age level homeschool co-op. I read to my daughters, hours a day. I taught my oldest to bake and follow recipes from an early age. I cooked dinner nearly every night. I spent nearly every moment of every day with my girls, forging a bond and crafting memories.

My guess is that no one would look at me in my 30s and call me ambitious.

But I think it’s because the measurement tools don’t fit.

The question is flawed.

Better questions about women and ambition: Can our society celebrate and value the ambition women channel into their homes and families? How do women channel their ambition differently? 

Ambition is a desire for achievement; ambition is expressed in an outpouring of energy, enthusiasm, and passion.

Accomplishments at home by women, wives and mothers, are often unseen and uncelebrated. But I would never say that women lack ambition.

And even though now, in my 40s, I have a life that is ambitious by anyone’s definition or measurements, it is the same ambition that has always fueled my life.

Except now, I do not need the benefit of retrospect to see my ambition.

I can trace my ambition daily, in the moment, as I express my ambition in my choices and actions. And though I am tempted to assign more value and worth to my life now versus then, it is only because I am infected by the flawed question, not because I am truly any more ambitious now than I was before.

Tell me something! Are you ambitious? How do you define ambition? What fuels your ambition? How do you express your energy, passion, and enthusiasm?

Image by moedermens