This week’s character trait at Seekonk High School is Ambitious.
Unfortunately this is one of those terms that has two perceived meanings depending on your perspective…one good and one, well, not so good. It may be because of this that it is difficult to instill in many people. For my purpose here, I am addressing the ambition we all hope to have that affords us the ability to be successful without consequently diminishing the same opportunity of those around us.
Carol Dweck touches on the idea of ambition driven effort when discussing mindsets. It seems not too far a stretch to infer that a person in a growth mindset finds ambition good while those in a fixed mindset tend to scoff at the effort required to maintain a healthy level of ambition. In simpler terms, we all know examples of those who use ambition for good and those who wind up on the other side of that spectrum. This post is driven by two factors. First, the idea that we as adults, children, educators, students, parents, and the educational system need to be acutely aware of our impact on society. All of us affect the future. To accomplish this in a positive manner requires change and progress according to the ever changing needs of our world. More detail on this larger topic must be saved for a future post. The second factor may be summed up in the following quote by Oscar Wilde: “Our ambition should be to rule ourselves, the true kingdom for each one of us; and true progress is to know more, and be more, and to do more.”
Education is not the learning of facts and figures per se. Understanding how everything fits together through application is still the medium range goal. Education, in the end, for all of us involved is about opening the doors to future possibility. It is no secret that students today are learning skills they will need to apply when working in jobs that will be radically different from today. There are multiple reports that discuss the idea of students being prepared for jobs that do not yet exist. What is not discussed is that such events will demand everyone to change; from educators to current employees in both the private and public sectors. The only way for anyone to keep current with progress and this required change is to continually educate themselves. This requires ambition. As the times change, all of us must continue to “know more” if we are to successfully progress in our lives.
All the knowledge in the world would be useless without the ambition to succeed, but that ambition must not be blind less we diminish who we are as people. Allowing that to happen, as some have, fosters the negative side of ambition or a “winning at all costs” attitude. The default position for ambition should be the continual push for personal success as measured by the quality of impact a person has on not only their lives, but those who they impact as well.
Salvador Dali said; “Intelligence without ambition is a bird without wings.” This is possibly the most important aspect of ambition; the courage to act. It does not matter how much you know, want to help others, or better yourself if you do not act. We like to talk about education in terms of reform and change to the point that we tend to overlook gradual progress in an effort to satisfy our ambitions for immediate improvement. Often, one small act will not help you attain your ultimate goal, but it is a start and therefore, progress. It is a combination of repeated small steps and leaps that eventually complete the journey. Whether it is Merriam-Webster defining it as, “the process of improving or developing something over time or Tony Blair saying that it “has never been shaped by commentators, complainers or cynics;” progress is achieved by deliberate and consistent action. To do that, requires a certain amount of grit, but above all the ambition to start.