I was talking with a fellow recently who was asking why this blog is called Serene Ambition™. He thought that the two words didn’t seem to go together. He could get ‘serenity’ and also understand ‘ambition’, but together they made no sense to him. In our normal way of relating to the world, you can have serenity (meaning inner peace, calmness, maybe even joy) or you can be ambitious (meaning committed to creating or accomplishing something in the future)—but not both together.
In some ways, we might say these two terms label the best of East and West. Eastern philosophy and culture mostly focused on attaining the goal of serenity—enlightment, bliss, spiritual union. Serenity generally implies the virtues of acceptance, forgiveness, gratitude, completion, wholeness and profound satisfaction.
The West, on the other hand, is a testament to making things happen, building the world in our image, and in overcoming obstacles to achieve our goals. Ambition generally suggests the virtues of perserverance, commitment, focus, power, intentionality and responsibility. Arguably today, the East lacks many of the material accomplishments of the West and the West is thirsty for more spiritual depth and experience. Both have their value, insofar as both are different expressions of our humaness and ways of being in the world.
I see a third perspective exists which is always available to us, but it is one which is generally not distinguished in our ‘either/or’ world. It is the distinction "serene ambition". This perspective opens the possibility of simultaneously being 100% satisfied with "the way it is" (being in a state of profound acceptance), while also being committed to creating something else (being able to achieve breakthroughs in the status quo). This is the central distinction in coaching, for example. From a coach’s perspective, you are always fine the way you are and never ‘need’ coaching, while at the same time you can accomplish more than you ever imagined if you can commit to a larger possibility.
As we age, we need to recognize the perfection of the aging process and the perfection of who and how we are day to day. We also need to recognize that we are aging within a social context, a paradigm which is always attempting to define not only who we are, but also what is and is not possible. We need to accept the paradigm and not resist it. At the same time, we have the opportunity to commit ourselves to BEING true to our own vision and to the possiblity that who we are is not a function of our circumstances, including our biological age. This we need to create and articulate in every conversation, to express who we are through relationships and to generate our own way of being in the world.
This is why I chose "serene ambition" as the place marker for the possibility of transforming the culture of aging (and anything else we might wish to transform). I hold a vision of 90 million individuals of the ‘Baby Boom’ generation awakening to realize that:
- The world is what it is and that it doesn’t need help.
- We can be responsible for it and accept it as it is.
Most importantly, we have the capacity to create the future as an expression of our vision and our commitment to a world that works for everyone.