Changing ambition.

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Photo by Tyssul Patel

The lovely Katie over at beNourishd included a very intriguing opinion piece about women’s ambition in her weekly link round up that really got me thinking.

Emma Barnett, the women’s editor at the Telegraph posits that “women are losing custody of their ambition – and they don’t even know it.” To make this point, she talks through four subtle categories of behaviour that ‘lead women all over the world to lose custody of their ambition – often without realising”.

  1. Poisonous Presumptions: the reductive presumptions that are made about women at work, i.e. that women are opting out.
  2. Nice Guy Misogyny: the nice guys that I’m sure quite a few of us have worked for that typically have a wife / partner that stays home, so don’t have a relatable model of a working woman in their lives, hence, some very outdated views.
  3. Dumb Denial: when people can’t or won’t see that there is a problem with gender equality / representative in their respective workplace.
  4. The Imitation Game: when women don’t accept or fight for a fairer partnership at home.

She concludes by saying that “we can learn to sense the intangible bias that can eventually grind women down and lead us to lose custody of our ambition…[and] win it back.”

I found this viewpoint extremely interesting, yet very representative of a certain type of woman that is focused on moving up the corporate ladder with a singular ambition. What I wrote in the comments on Katie’s blog post  was I felt that Emma Barnett didn’t acknowledge that ambition changes. She says that she wanted “to think about ambition in a broader sense”, when really what she refers to is a very corporate ambition, without looking at the bigger picture.

For many women (and men!), it’s not that they are losing custody of their ambition, but that they are choosing a different sort of ambition. This ambition is motivated by the desire for a more well-rounded life that leaves room for good quality time with children, time for hobbies, a rich spiritual life.

This type of ambition is a shift from the relentless move up the corporate ladder at any cost, to choosing the type of life you want and designing your ambition to achieve this life. In my twenties, I was intent on doing everything I could to move up the corporate ladder, getting promotions and changing companies to achieve this ambition. The cost of this was poor health, endless hours at work and on my Blackberry and weaker connections with friends and family.

With the birth of my son, my ambitions for my life and my family life changed. I wanted to be more present and do something that would have a long term benefit for me and my family. My motivations changes and now my ambition is to become a naturopath.

How have your ambitions changed after big life events? Do you want the same things for your life?

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