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Essay: The Vital Nature of Ambition: Why ambition is the first step that leads to happiness

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  • Published: 1 February 2018*
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The Vital Nature of Ambition

Why ambition is the first step that leads to happiness

There are many books that teach about the methods of converting your desires for riches into their material equivalent.  The granddaddy of the entire personal development industry is Napoleon Hills classic, ‘Think and Grow Rich’, however there are many books that came before it, and many many more that have been published since, some getting us closer to understanding the true principles that lead to success and many that cause us to veer off into the weeds of irrelevancy.

Ambition or desire is that vital force that causes men and women grow into their potential.  Our desire for more is the first step of reaching one’s potential. We all want to have and be more than we are, but to accomplish such a feat we must stretch and reach and work and strive.  The purpose of our development is to become more. Happiness isn’t possible without personal growth.  The philosopher Aristotle taught that happiness is the purpose of life.  Joseph Smith, an American frontier prophet, also said of happiness, that, ‘Happiness is the object and design of our existence; and will be the end thereof, if we pursue the path that leads to it”  

So, what are the principles (and processes) that lead to growth?

[1] Ambition (leads to)

[2] Deliberate Purposeful Action (which results in)

[3] Happiness (which causes an increase in)

[1] Ambition’

This is a simple process, but one that is often miss-understood.  The principles that lead to growth are found in the natural law.  It is written that: ‘There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated’  And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.  (D&C 130:20-21). This describes the truth that the principles of success predate any of us, that they are in fact Natural Law.  Laws of growth that are found in nature, and are observable both in nature and in all societies, and anyone who applies these principles will without exception (because they are law) accomplish the outcome ‘blessing’ of the law that is followed or obeyed.

Another idea that is consistent with observing this law in action is that each time one goes through the 3 step cycle of 1. Ambition, 2. Action, 3. Satisfaction the next cycle is a bit higher of an ambition, so there is a constant upward movement.

But to back up a bit, where does this urge to grow come from?  Is this innate in each of us?  If so, then why are some people more prone to ambition and others less so?  We all have friends who from their earliest childhood displayed in their personality a strong propensity toward success and advancement, while others display no such inclination toward growth or ambition.  If innate then why the huge difference between individuals, even within the same family?  For the entrepreneur, ambition is the lifeblood of their very existence, it is the motive power to accomplish so much more than the ordinary person.  If ambition could be truly explained, and where it comes from, then the mysteries of the universe would be unfolded.  

How then is this ambition activated in one's life?  Orison Swett Marden, MD once taught this powerful idea:

‘In a factory where mariners compasses are made, the needles, before they are magnetized, will lie in any position, wherever they are placed, but from the moment they have been touched by the mighty magnet and have been electrified, they are never again the same. They have taken on a mysterious power and are new creatures. Before they are magnetized, they do not answer the call of the north star, the magnetic pole does not have any effect upon them, but the moment they have been magnetized they swing to the magnetic north, and are ever after loyal and true to their affinity.

Multitudes of people, like an unmagnetized needle, lie motionless, unresponsive to any stimulus until they are touched by that mysterious force we call ambition.

This magnetizing process is an educational process.  If you read biographies and study the lives of great men and women of accomplishment, that very process of bringing higher ideas and thoughts into their life was the starting point of ambition.  This process once started, if engaged with full effort, becomes an upward cycle, that grows and grows until the very nature of that person has changed, and they become an inspiring example that will light the flame of those that will come after them.

The craving for something higher and better naturally grows when we adopt the general habit of always seeking noble ideals and moving upwards and climbing to something higher and better, if we feed only those things that grow and enhance our natures, our bad habits are eliminated.

Even the faintest aspiration that springs up in our heart is a heavenly seed within us which will grow and develop into a noble character if only it is encouraged.  Like the parable of the seed and the ground in the New Testament; the seeds may be good, but without care and nourishment, only weeds, briars, and noxious plants will thrive.

The habit of procrastination, of postponing, the habit of picking out the easier tasks and putting off the difficult ones, will damage ambition, possibly to the point of destroying it.  It is vital if we want to encourage ambition that we adopt the habits of doing the hard things first, of always looking for ways to improve your habits and strengthen your processes and enhance your methods.

Also, ambition once ignited often begins to look for encouragement and recognition. If we do heed this call, if early ambition gets no encouragement, it gradually decreases like everything else, what gets rewarded gets duplicated and grows, what gets ignored deteriorates or dies.

The still small voice of God is whispering in the ear of every living thing ‘GROW!’ Every sentient being in the universe seems to be trying to get to a higher level. Everything is in the process of growth, and this evolution is always upward. Everything seeks to grow and reproduce, that is a natural law, and humankind is no exception, but is, in fact, the highest expression of this law.

If ambition is not something that you feel is a strength you have at this point, it is because you have neglected it for too long, and you must jump-start that ambition in order to progress. Start by reading and studying wisdom literature, and start associating with people who are striving for higher and loftier accomplishments in their lives.  That association and study will bless your life in miraculous ways.

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