Cultivating Healthy Ambition In Yourself + Supporting An Ambitious Spouse

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“She has always been ambitious.” “He is so full of ambition!”

You’ve probably heard these phrases quite a bit over the years. After all, in a culture and time when the bullet points of our resumes are analyzed, “ambitious” is a buzz word that pops up time and time again.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the word “ambition” lately – what it means in general, and what it means in context of my own life (and marriage). And I’m curious to find out what you think of that word, and how it has affected you. Personally, I’ve heard the word “ambition” spoken with both positive and negative connotations. I do believe that ambition can be done healthfully, but it does need to be approached intentionally. That way, we avoid being swept up completely in it, without truly processing what healthy ambition means in our life.

I’m not really one to start every blog post with a dictionary definition of my key word πŸ™‚ BUT… this definition just sums it up too well.

Ambition: a strong desire to do or to achieve something, typically requiring determination and hard work. 

Quote from Google’s definition.

Some of my thoughts on ambition, first – in no particular order:

1 // Ambition looks different on different people. Some people just aren’t extremely motivated to go and do and accomplish. It’s not to say they’re lazy, or a failure at all…I think ambition kind of runs on a spectrum and some have more of that goal-oriented push or “oomph” than others. I don’t think this means we criticize those who have less of a drive to accomplish specific goals. God made each person with their own set of talents, experiences, spheres of influence, and personality — which He can and will use to accomplish His goals and His purposes!

2 // Make sure your ambitions are coming from the right priorities. This is a hard one because we aren’t in someone’s head – goodness, even if we’re the ambitious ones, it can still be hard to sort out our own priorities! I just suggest praying that God would show you what it is He wants you to continue with, and that He’d show you encouragement or success if that particular path is one He’d like you to pursue. I have this (in shorter phrasing) on my prayer index card to pray for every night. Bjorn and I want to make sure we are pursuing the things in life that are God’s plan for us to pursue, things that are wise choices and will bring Him the most glory. It’s kind of a hard prayer to pray because we can get so attached to our own goals and dreams, but I know it is important! We have only one life to live, and we want to utilize our time as best as we can for God’s glory.

3 // Being ambitious is different from being a workaholic! Let me say, I’m not really addressing the idea of being a “workaholic” in this post. (A workaholic would be defined as someone who feels compelled to work or is compulsively working long hours.) I don’t feel qualified or feel the desire to chat about workaholism. For the purposes of this post, I’m instead talking about those ambitious people who feel a strong drive to do things, or achieve things. Hard work is typically required for these kinds of tasks, so I’m speaking to that – not to someone who works all the time just for the sake of work. That’s different. I’d consider ambition to be a bit more goal-driven.

4 // Being ambitious does not mean you have no down time. It could mean you have less time, but sometimes it also involves excellent time management skills! People can talk about how busy they are, without really meeting a major goal. That’s a different conversation altogether πŸ™‚ Hard work being directed towards a goal is about the quality of the work, not necessarily always about the quantity. That being said, time and effort usually need to be dedicated to a certain extent to accomplish something! πŸ™‚ I’ll talk more about my husband below, but I love the fact that even though he has a lot of jobs and responsibilities, he still has time for those fun movie nights or quiet evenings together. 

Ambition from where I stand:

I’d like to give you a little background as to why I’m writing about ambition. I married an ambitious man! Did I know Bjorn was ambitious before I dated him? Yes. But as time has gone on, his hobbies, talents, and various jobs/careers have been honed in more specific ways. I suppose it’s that way for all of us! As we get older, our experiences and situations help drive us as we keep discovering what it is we want to do in our life! But Bjorn has always been ambitious. We took that “Happiness Quiz” and we both were categorized as a “Doer,” meaning we feel our best when we are busily getting this accomplished! 

I’d have to say my husband is more ambitious than me. I’m going to brag about him for a moment (because this relates to the next section of this post, and because I’m proud of him): Bjorn teaches full-time, but he also farms (and farming is a complex, time-consuming career, too!), he’s pursuing his Masters right now, he coaches Knowledge Bowl, he’s a busy officer in the Army Reserves (always up for new trainings he can attend), and he just got elected Mayor of our town so he’s enjoying new responsibilities there too.

I’m sure I left something out πŸ™‚ but suffice it to say, Bjorn is a goal-driven, productive man! And I love him for it. He’s always learning new things, striving for goals, and he doesn’t shy away from responsibility. I love seeing him strive for excellence in all he does. I love supporting him and encouraging him. I love watching how his mind works and how he embraces learning new things. 

RELATED: Find my other posts on marriage here!

Part of the commitment I made when I married Bjorn is to be his greatest cheerleader, and to help support him in becoming all that God made him to be. With such an ambitious person in my life, I need to learn how to appropriately understand and come alongside his ambitions. If I didn’t approach this intentionally, then Bjorn could wind up feeling misunderstood and unsupported.

You may be a pretty ambitious person yourself…or you probably know someone (or are married to someone) who is! Below are some tips I have for supporting an ambitious loved one.

Supporting the ambitious people in your life:

Hear them. Listen to their plans! Listening does not always have to mean jumping in on “the plan” yourself. Listening also doesn’t mean interrupting them with ways you’d make their plan better. It means you are pausing and giving them the gift of you really hearing their heart and their drive.

Understand their drive to work – and work hard – at this. Scan that definition at the top of this page again. Ambition typically requires determination and hard work. And it’s simply a drive that some people feel! Do we all feel the same intensity of that drive, for that particular task? No! And that is okay. But I think we need to take a step back and process the fact that they feel the need to dedicate time and energy to this. Try to be understanding when they have to be gone, or when they need to work hard on a task without you there. 

Express your pride and support of them. Even if it’s not your passion, or your project, I think it’s meaningful to let your loved one know that you’re proud of them! For some people, this means more to them than it does for others… Words of affirmation can mean the world to some people, so I’d say give it a shot and tell them you see how hard they’re working at this!

Create a culture of encouragement in your household. When I asked Bjorn the other day how he feels I support him, he said, “Bee, you and I have a culture of encouragement in our family.” And he is so right! Bjorn is my greatest goal-supporter, always believing I can accomplish whatever I want to! I am so grateful for that. And in my love for him, I try my best to make him feel encouraged, whether it’s baby steps towards a larger goal, or reaching that goal itself!

Would you consider yourself an ambitious person? Are you married to one? I’d love to hear how you encourage others or how you cultivate healthy ambition in your own life!

Do you like posts about marriage? Find my other marriage posts HERE.