Why Spirituality Will Not Make You Less Ambitious

Photo by Clary Tanner

Breaking the false relationship between spirituality and indifference

Wearing a white piece of clothing, sitting in the lotus posture, beads hanging around the neck, hair longer than it’s supposed to be, and incense burning on the side. This is the usual image of a ‘spiritual person’.

He has nothing to desire. There’s nothing he’d rather be doing than meditating on a mat. There’s nothing else he needs apart from his mat and a few cushions perhaps. A few photos on his altar may just be his most expensive possession.

He doesn’t want to ‘hustle’. He’s not afraid of being ‘average’. He isn’t searching for a productivity technique to get more done in less time.

He just is. He’s a human being, not a human doing.

Does that mean he has no ambition? Absolutely not. And let’s see why.

Spirituality = Highest Form of Ambition

Humans are designed to aim for progress and evolution. We learn to build on top of what those before us have done. Without progress, life stagnates — a feeling of worthlessness sinks in. This is when you start Googling — “What is the meaning of life?”

Still, lack of progress isn’t our problem. The problem is most of us progress rapidly but in the wrong direction. In a direction that seems promising and happiness-inducing which in reality, is devoid of true fulfillment.

All of us have gone down this path. On this path, nothing is enough. You get into a good college, then want a cushy job. You get a cushy job, then want a big house. You get a big house, you want a bigger house. You get a bigger house, then you want more cars. You get more cars, then you want more children, a prettier spouse, or myriad things we feel will give us happiness but don’t.

Even if you were the king of the world or a mighty emperor like Marcus Aurelius or Genghis Khan, you’d want to conquer more territories expand your empire, and stop only at death. Again, there’s nothing wrong with that. As I said, humans are geared for progress.

Now then, the spiritual person seems to be away from all this. Satisfied with his meditations and simple life, he doesn’t care about material pursuits.

But I’d say that the spiritual man is the most ambitious of all.

Potential of Man

The potential of humans is much larger than we make of it. We’re made to conquer the universe and realize our oneness with it. We can be one with the whole Creation but we restrict ourselves to lesser goals — a job, a business, a car, a house, a spouse, and so on.

We limit our goals to a specific part of the creation and strive to achieve that. But since man is made to behold the whole universe, he cannot but be dissatisfied with anything less than that. And so we chase more knickknacks thinking that little by little, we’ll have the whole universe.

Our souls are struggling to expand themselves fully. But we box ourselves to smaller visions. Alas, all these small achievements put together will not give us what we want.

The spiritual man realizes this. Instead of going after the goals as others set for him, he wants to not only know the whole Creation, but also the Creator. He strives straight towards the true goal of life instead of taking long detours.

He doesn’t want to experience every little aspect of Creation. No, he goes for the Creator himself. The Creator will then show him the whole creation.

Suppose you visit a huge empire led by a famous king. You’re curious to see the whole kingdom. But can’t do it on your own for you’ll be lost.

So you go to the king and the king shows the place to you. Instead of wasting time exploring each garden and room by yourself, you go to the main palace and ask the king to show you around.

The Creator is the king and you’re the visitor.

So now I ask you, which of the two is more ambitious — knowing the Creator or striving for little pieces of his creation?

Of course the former. When you change your perspective to this, the word ‘ambition’ takes a new meaning in itself. (By the way, that’s often what spirituality does — it doesn’t take anything from you, it just changes the lens from which you look at the world.)

Replace the Traditional Ambition

Whether you like it or not, most of our ambitions are a mishmash of greed, fear, anxiety, delusion, etc.

As a young kid when I had dreams of founding a Fortune 500 company, which came out of delusion. The delusion that founding a company is what life’s about. That achieving this goal will give me what I’m looking for in life.

I’d argue most founders don’t actually have healthy motivations. Some are in it for the money, others for the fame. They might say they want to create an impact or change the world. It sounds sexy, but it’s ludicrous. (I mean come on, selling B2B SaaS software is not “changing the world”, it’s just intelligent branding).

Any goal that arises from a feeling of lack or discontentment will lead to unpleasant results later on. You may achieve the goal, but will not be mentally, emotionally, or spiritually fulfilled.

The spiritual man realizes that we’re whole and complete. And all these outer goals will not give him the happiness that he’s looking for.

With this thought, it’s easy to object — “If happiness is inside, why to do anything?”

Let me tell you. When you know you can find happiness within yourself, you work not to gain happiness or reduce the feeling of lack. You work to fulfill your vision of helping others — and this time it’s genuine.

For instance, I’m not writing this article to make money. I’m writing this to express my thoughts on a topic close to my heart. I’m not writing to make you feel less. I’m writing to be creative, to give shape to my thoughts and not from a place of lack.

From this place of equanimity, I don’t lack motivation or ambition at all. If anything, I’m more motivated than the average person. I don’t say this to brag, but I’ve written 230+ articles in the past 11 months, and I don’t think that’s possible if I would’ve been only writing to earn money. That kind of output doesn’t come from a place of lack.

You can do the dishes because you don’t want your spouse to get angry or you can do them to help your spouse. You can exercise in fear of not losing your current shape or you can exercise to be the best version of yourself.

Any action you perform comes either from fear or love. The question is which place are you acting from.

Imagine what the world would be like if everyone worked to create for the joy of creating. Imagine what your life would be like if you found a perennial source of happiness inside. Imagine how would it feel to work to express yourself and not just as a way to sustain your life.

It’s truly beautiful. And that kind of life is possible only if you change your thinking about ambition completely. Don’t limit yourself to mere toys when you’re made to expand infinitely.

Once you do that, you’ll be more alive, motivated, and ‘ambitious’ (in the true sense of the word) than anyone else you’ve ever met.

Struggling to meditate? Get your free 7 Day email courseMeditation 101: How to Start Meditating

Written on May 10, 2021