Photo by Christa Gallopoulos

You feel the calling to do that thing.

Maybe you feel called to write the book, to tell your story.

Maybe you long to start the business that fills you up with passion.

Maybe you dream of building that beautiful, wildly unique home.

Maybe you feel “assigned” to share a particular idea in the world, and transform the status quo.

But you wonder: Is that silly, grandiose? Is that selfishly ambitious? Is there something dark, or false, or frivolous about this?

It’s no wonder you are concerned. You’ve seen the dark side of ambition: political leaders who abuse their power, billionaires who abuse the system, corporate empire-building that harms the earth. You don’t want to harm, exploit, or deny others. You don’t want to become materialistic or unkind.

And yet…that big calling inside. That big dream for your self-expression, your contribution, your financial security, your joy.

My colleague and friend Lianne Raymond has something brilliant to say about this. Her framework has been making a huge difference for me, and I’m excited to share it with you.

She differentiates between “actualization” and “ambition.”

She says, “Actualization is an awkward word for the beautiful and somewhat mysterious essence in every human being and every living thing to grow into the fullest expression of itself. You see it in a flower that bends to the sun. You see it when a baby pushes herself up to take a tentative step, falls and does it all again, over and over until she is walking. I see it in my artist friend Sharon who says, “I have drawn and painted all my life. I can’t not do it.”

In other words, actualization is about the full expression of your gifts and impulses to create. In my courses, this is how we define playing big. I don’t think ambition will save the world, but I do think actualization will. If we are actualizing, we are bringing forth the incredible gifts, talents, contributions, love and light within.

Lianne writes that ambition, by contrast, is driven by needing to impress others or reassure ourselves we are enough. It’s about needing to “win,” or to gain acclaim. It tends to be rooted in insecurity.

Lianne suggests that we ask ourselves, around any dream or goal, is this “originating from a place of actualization or ambition?”

I have been asking myself this all week, as I face little choices in my business, but also as I’m doing some big picture planning, and it is so, so, helpful.

Is the desire to offer this course coming from ambition or actualization?
Is the idea to partner with this person from from ambition or actualization?
Is the desire to write for that publication coming from ambition or actualization?

In asking this question, I’ve had a couple interesting insights: 1) The stuff I’m doing from a place of ambition has a stressed out undertone to it. 2) The stuff I want to do from a place of self-actualization is much more interesting, creatively fresh and likely to lead to worldly success.

That’s the paradox. Most of the time, and particularly for entrepreneurs, creatives, innovators, and leaders, worldly success will come from self-actualization, not ambition, because it’s in self-actualizaiton that our wildly unique contributions come through.

For more guidance on how to answer that question and more of Lianne’s wise reflections on this topic, check out the post here. I highly, highly recommend her blog too – she doesn’t write that often, but I am always blown away by her work when she does.

Here’s what I believe: you are brilliant. You are a divine creation. When the channel is unblocked and you are up to the work of actualization, amazing contributions will flow forth from you into the world.

Wishing you a beautiful weekend.