A few weeks back a colleague said to me, "I admire how ambitious you are." Her words stopped me.
"Ambitious? You see me as ambitious?" I was puzzled. I never thought of myself in that way, so I had to ponder what she meant by that.
I turned to my internal dictionary and thesaurus -- the one my grandmother had drilled into me as a child by insisting that I learn the list of spelling bee words she tore out of the Sunday paper each week.
Ambitious: a go-getter, power-hungry, zealous. That's not me. Determined. Hmm. Determined. Now that is me. I am determined, purposeful, motivated, and an enthusiastic learner. I am an achiever.
This got me thinking about what is achievement? Achievement is the experience of accomplishment, of attaining the goals you set for yourself. While ambition is the chief driver of achievement, it seems to me they are variables in the equation that equals fulfillment.
Fulfillment is the achievement of something desired, promised, or predicted; it is the feeling of satisfaction or happiness as a result of fully developing one's abilities or character. You may have all the success and money in the world, yet be internally bankrupt and feel that life has no meaning.
Fulfillment is accomplished by two things: continuous growth and continuous contribution beyond oneself. It comes from living a life of meaning, of significance. Achievement, however, is pleasure; achievement is of and in the moment.
In my studies in strategic intervention, I learned that the strongest drive in human beings is the "drive for fulfillment, and that all human beings share this need to experience a life of meaning and purpose" (Robbins-Madanes).
Fulfillment can only be achieved when we focus our lives on the need to grow continuously, and the need to contribute beyond ourselves in a meaningful way.
My desire to grow continuously and to contribute beyond myself in a meaningful way is fueled by an inner ambition to do so.
Perhaps my colleague was right. I am ambitious.