For many, ambition is linear. We have a few things we want to achieve and we list them in priority order - these become our "dreams". We then organise the things we do day to day, hoping they'll all begin to contribute to our dreams. And all the while we imagine that moment of achievement: for that's the the moment we'll be truly happy, when everything will make sense and come together. That will be the pinnacle of our lives. Everything will have been worthwhile.
Let's put this in context. For many girls the ultimate ambition might be to meet the man of our dreams. We tend to give ourselves a time limit (say, early thirties?) and then, whether consciously or subconsciously, we adjust our behaviour to optimise these possibilities. As time goes on, we might put more pressure on ourselves to achieve our ambitions - we might attend events such as speed-dating, we might peruse the internet, we might scout around friends of friends. Constantly imagining the moment of our wedding day: it will be perfect. I will be so happy. Everything will be comfortable and sorted and the future will be rosy.
A desire to be the best, to achieve our ambitions, takes on another dimension as we measure our linear journey against those of others. For it is not enough to tick off our own personal checklist; we must also win the race. As we progress we constantly analyse our competitors. What do they have that we don't? Are they more good-looking, clever, better? Our ambition is worth more when it is awarded first place.
And, of course, media and society perpetuate these attitudes. The hugely hyped weddings of celebrities are examples of the media creating one of those "pinnacle moments". We act as if every moment of their vacuous lives have led to that instance of perfection. They look perfect, they act perfectly and achieve everything they sought out to achieve. All obstacles have been overcome: proven by the couture dress and the diamond ring.
But the countless celebrity divorces and catastrophic falls from grace also serve to prove that we are being dishonest with ourselves if we treat life like this. The truth is sometimes harder to admit:
We are not the best.
It is likely that we will not achieve all our ambitions.
And, what's more, even if we do, trials and tribulations will continue to follow.
But that's ok. Each of us is lucky to have a huge range of gifts and limitations and, with a little bit of introspection and realism, life can be so bountiful for us when we work with what we are endowed.
But why do we even need to be the best? Why do we need the dream job, the dream man, the dream lifestyle? We don't need to be the best him or her, we need to concentrate on being the best us, and realising that's enough. Achievement is not a linear journey - is a huge messy tangle that we can slowly learn to navigate.
Author: Vicky Noble