What do you want from life? What would you like to achieve? What are your goals and dreams?
These are some of the most common questions we are likely to ever ask ourselves. So much so, in fact, that my stating them almost becomes a cliche (but then, we know how I love cliches). Nevertheless, as human beings in an increasingly materialistic and secular world, we are constantly faced with introspection on what we want, what we need, and what we should have.
The most typical and oft-written about desires are pretty basic. Great job, great house, great love. Just great, right? A great job will provide you with wealth and fulfillment. A great home will be your comfort and pride. A great love will be your unending source of support and inspiration. These three possessions altogether should transform your life into an unending depth of happiness; or so it is believed. However, cutting our life’s purpose into such a simple intent seems almost to erode the relative importance of such goals. And also, there are those who claim to have reached these plateaus but still, they do not feel the deep sense of enrichment that is supposed to be intrinsic with this higher territory. Furthermore, there are some who suggest that achieving all of these is impossible, as your relative analogy of “great” is dependent on your current situation. In short, you will always want more than what you have.
I realize you’ve probably read in great detail about these same things previously; that none of this is particularly new. I concur. But it is necessary to utilize the prerequisite argument of desire in order to move forward. Plainly stated, human beings are growth-oriented and desire is a manner that spurs us into growth-inducing action.
Desire is essentially a naked urge for some object, person, trait, etc. But in desire we also find ambition, which may be a more important trait in and of itself. Milton even, called ambition the “last infirmity of noble minds.” The difference between desire and ambition is facile; desire is simply a want whereas ambition is a plan to obtain a want.
When we set out a real goal for ourselves, we also outline a path that we believe will lead us to this goal. In our modern society, we are quite focused on this end. Though, in our pursuit of this, if we have a somewhat noble path to follow, then we are likely to find great joy and meaning along the path we have set out. Our ambition pushes us towards our desire and, in doing so, we learn and grow in the process. Whether we realize our desire or not, we are still improved for having attempted the trial to begin with.
A problem arises in this mechanism when we attribute too much weight to the actual ends. Say we desire a higher job within the company that we work for. We might increase our skill set and work more feverishly to become noticed and rewarded justly. This would be the typical path of advancement and it obviously improves us by following it. However, one might simply wish to jump past this whole development. Perhaps they might sleep with a superior or find some way to blackmail the CEO. Whatever the method, you can thus understand how our ambition can force us into ignoble actions that hinder our procession and learning.
So, it should be evident that desire does not always lead us along the most fulfilling path. Our ambition simply outlines possible methods to obtain the desire that we have set for ourselves. It is up to us to decide continuously how we should act while balancing growth, morals, effort, etc. Achievement is not simply limited to the attainment of a goal, but also by the process of which the goal is reached.
Or at least it sounds simple enough.
Thanks for reading.