Why patience and ambition aren't mutually exclusive

My recent posts have been all about our relationship to time, urgency, and slowing down.

There is value to letting go of the feeling that everything needs to happen now and letting time, with all its possibilities, unfold before you.

But there's an important paradox we need to address:

Patience and ambition seem at odds with one another.

Sometimes it feels like letting go of urgency also means letting go of our goals and stagnating--but this is not what we want.

As a life coach, my primary work is to help my clients achieve clarity in and actualization of their goals. To empower them to make concrete, lasting change in their lives.

So I certainly am pro-goals. In fact, I usually suggest setting a timeline so as to promote realistic goal setting and accountability.

Then how can I be promoting patience at the same time?


To answer this, we need to define patience more clearly.

When someone tells me to "be patient," it is usually not at all what I need to hear. It can make me feel invalidated and shut down.

When I refer to patience as the opposite of urgency, I am not suggesting an infinite delay of desire. To me, that is just not humanly possible. We want what we want, and we usually want it now.

What I am suggesting is a different way of relating to the passage of time itself.

As we go through more of life's twists and turns, we can witness our own ability to navigate those ups and downs, disappointments and triumphs.

We discover that the passage of time always brings change, for better and for worse, and that each day, week, month, year, decade comes with an infinite amount of possibility.

Patience, to me, means letting ourselves see our experiences through the lens of the journey we've taken and will take, rather than just through moments of achievement or failure. It means acknowledging how time unravels to give us the space to learn who we are and what we are meant to do.

Patience is a mix of faith and perspective that allows us to believe: Eventually, I will get to where I hope to be and, on the way, I will savor my path as much as my destination.


patience and ambition aren't mutually exclusive.

Rather, they are inextricably linked.

We grow and learn because of our ambition. Because of who we hope to become and what we hope to achieve.

This is a good, beautiful, essential part of life. It drives us forward.

And then patience comes in to remind us that while that ambition is an essential part of life, it is not life in its entirety

My desires to have a sustainable income and to one day have a family influence my decisions today and the path that I am on.

But the full experience of my life will not be defined by how much money I made when I was 25 or how many children I'll have by the time I'm 35.

It will be the road I took to achieving (or not achieving!) those things. Who I met along the way. Where I went. What I learned. Who I became. How I loved.

You see? Life is much more than just ambition alone would allow for.

So don't let go of your goals. Keep them in sight, allow yourself to envision them and to want them.

And then remind yourself that whether you get there today or ten years from now, whether you change your mind or fail completely, these are just the ends. The means are so much more important.



Like this post? Get free monthly inspiration straight to your inbox! Sign up here.