reach for the starsWe often refer to the sky being the limit. How claustrophobic says Rachel Wolchin of A spacecraft landing on a meteorite shows how far to date the human race has gone beyond its extra-terrestrial ambitions since the Moon landings nearly 50 years ago.

Does pursuing your job and career ambitions feel like mission impossible? Let us take a leaf out of detective fiction to explore the benefits of pursuing mission impossible and going beyond the sky.

Ambition is the mother of intention. It is often what drives our unexpressed hopes and desires so that they feel they are still within touching distance. Yet, ambition can be frustratingly fuzzy and ill defined. How many of us search for a future we can’t quite put our finger on?

I like Jo Nesbo’s serial killer thriller, The Snowman (coincidentally, it’s snowing outside today). The hero, Detective Harry Hole, is a typically laconic loner with alcohol problems and a brilliant observer of life. His description of his tradecraft resonates with me as a natural researcher. Here’s a taste from a scene where they are looking for clues to catch the murderer:

“We search.”

“What for?”

“That’s the last of our thoughts.”

Harry is saying that it helps to go forward with an open mind, free from our own and other people’s prejudices (like the career other people want for you).

“It’s so easy to miss something important if you’re searching for something else. Clear your mind. You’ll know what you’re searching for when you see it. Be glad whenever you could discount a clue that did not lead to the solution.”

One of Harry’s suggestions is that in order to isolate what is possible, you have to eliminate everything that is impossible. Think about that from an ambition perspective.

Many young people are accused of being naive about the workplace and what is possible. They are perceived as wanting the impossible because they see their peers succeed on TV talent shows.

This emphasis on the end point at the expense of the journey itself can make ambition seem handcuffed to happiness. Follow the Yellow Brick Road and the pot of gold awaits you at the end of the rainbow.

Happiness can be enduring, as in personal relationships, but the reality of most people’s lives is that it is often fleeting, transient, a phase, momentary and bounded. Being human means there is always a yang to the ying. When things don’t go according to plan in our careers, that’s when real learning often takes place.

A different path gets followed and you may go through a different door than you anticipated. A mindset of regret, of what might have been, eats away at the soul. Ambition can be a positive driver – it has rational and emotional sides.

Can you control ambition? Can you deliberately create ambition? Is it inborn or instilled by your environment? Unbridled ambition can be healthy and unhealthy. Channelled suggests it has focus. It can be tempered by realism. Not every teenager who fantasises about being a professional footballer or Olympic athlete becomes one. The chances are very slim.

If ambition is the mother of intention, then the child of intention is action. The determined take action and that can go a long way towards realising their ambitions. Better to have tried than not at all, so they say. It shapes who you are and what you will become. It eliminates what is impossible and what is not right for you.

Go beyond the sky, reach for the stars. Go for mission impossible. There is no perfect solution like solving the whodunit in my detective novel. Fulfilment comes from realising your potential. Unlocking it occurs when you act upon your ambition to see where it takes you. As Harry says, you’ll know what you are searching for when you see it.

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