Are you comfortable with your 'unambition'?


Unambitious is a popular word, whilst unambition is a word that isn’t even recognised by many dictionaries — at least, not until now. Having said that, it was a word that I heard being used quite a lot during the year 2017. It was used with air quotes, in the hope to convey the right emotions.

A friend who confessed to being career-driven until a few years ago mentioned how she was now content with what she had. “I am done chasing professional goals; neither a promotion nor a salary jump. I am fine with where I am. I guess I have an unambition,” she said. A neighbour mentioned how his daughter had made it clear that how he (the father) should not accept great grades from her — “I am just another ordinary student and I am okay with it, so should you,” she’d explained. “Why do we have to be best at what we do, why can’t we just be average? I don’t have to prove anything to anyone. I am comfortable with my unambition,” said another acquaintance.

Whilst it was easy to mistake these feelings for a lack of drive or a larger dream, it seemed to be the exact opposite. Look back and you’d realise that 2017 was a year when many of us decided to slow down, at will. Perhaps, it started with us embracing the Danish word and ritual, hygee i.e. enjoying life’s simple pleasures like cuddling up with loved ones, wearing a pair of cosy socks, lighting up lavender candles, et al. The sunrise of 2018 is likely to be defined by hygee’s Scottish rival — còsagach — a state of being ‘snug, sheltered or cosy’.

In the year that went by, we learnt both not to put pressure on ourselves and forgive ourselves for being unable to multi-task. We didn’t give up on dreams but didn’t lay down a condition and timeline for their fulfilment. Yes, laying down goals is ingrained in us — lose weight, run 5km a day, buy a new car, be a leader at the workplace, et al. Strangely enough, many of us felt it was okay to live without goals. No, it didn’t mean that we stopped achieving things; it simply meant we stopped judging ourselves harshly. We created things that mattered, spent time with people we loved and found out time for activities that once seemed trivial. This feeling that we experienced was of a charming kind. With our acceptance of unambition — we tasted freedom, contentment, and well-being.

As you write down your New Year Resolutions, take a moment to ask yourself — Is it important to be racing, achieving, competing or proving, always? We can ‘just be’ for a bit. Can’t we?

I couldn’t find a pretty English equivalent word for this emotion. I guess the Norwegian word ‘koselig’ comes close. It stands for something or someone that makes you experience a sense of warmth very deep inside in a way that all things should be: simple and comforting.

Wishing you all simplicity and contentment in 2018.


P.S: More than two years have gone by, the question remains: Can't we?


This piece was first published in Khaleej Times.


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© 2018 by PURVA GROVER