The Trouble with Ambition

I hate ambition.  Its aspirations ambush me in the early morning, dog me through the day and torture my sleep.  There is no method to my ambition, no step by step plan, no advice to offer, no success to share.  Possibly the least inspiring blog post ever.  Why read on?

This time last year I pledged allegiance to a group called ‘Un-consume in 2018’.  It went well whilst on holiday in December and early January.  Then routine, (work, school, family …) struck.  Propelled into its relentless appetite for my creativity, I floundered in the early stages of the school year.  Did I develop new, sustainable no or low-spend, habits?  Nah …

I was particularly focusing on food:  reducing packaged, processed foods and aiming for as little waste as possible.  The trouble is, I’m not even particularly interested in food.  I don’t actually enjoy making it, which is something of a problem with chosen focus! The other problem is TIME!!!  I don’t enjoy planning meals and menus, so when life gets busy I invariably end up buying on the hoof.  This actually takes longer and is expensive.

Perhaps I can be useful as a warning to others?  After all, there are enough inspirational life-change blogs out there anyway, as well as vast quantities of superciliously complacent, smugly self-congratulatory ‘how-to’ advice should you want it.  It’ll be posted anyway.  The problem with ambition is you set yourself up.

I’m wondering whether, in fact, goal-oriented behaviour only works for certain types of people in certain situations?  Or perhaps it can work for everyone, but it needs to be the right time. One issue for me is the ambition has no focus, other than being ‘to be or feel sussessful’ …which I never do.  If I could fix on one, specific goal and keep it, then perhaps I’d find the necessary drive. Whilst I’m waiting for one to transpire, I conclude that sometimes we need to find peace with where we’re at.  The final line from Derek Mahon’s poem, ‘Leaves’ comforts me:

The lives we might have led/Have found their own fulfilment




When biscuits fail


We are trying to ‘Un-consume in 2018’, as part of a group set up by Catherine Lloyd,



The holidays over and as February looms, I’m more pushed for time and feel burdened by routine.  My goal of offering gifts that count, but don’t cost is a challenge.  In spite of some clear successes, I can’t say I think I’ve ‘got it’ yet:  the art of giving is hard to master.

Let’s start with what went right: I’m in a department store café with my daughters and joke to the lady next to me that she’s nicked the last baked potato, (which she had!) … as they leave, smiling, my eldest asks me, ‘how do you do that?  …Make friends so easily?’ Touched, I love her for reflecting back a little bit of me so positively.  It means a lot and at that moment I realise that, like her, I carry an easy capacity to compliment.  What wonderful, feel-good giving for free!

There have, of course, also been failures.  The error in question was an attempted ‘gift’ of time’ … well-intentioned, yet wrapped in my own values and needs, with insufficient thought as to the recipient’s own position.  Result:  a loaded, coded package that made them feel obligated.

It was returned unopened.

I have agonised over this, probably too much, definitely too long.  But I’m a brooder … that’s what we do.

Commitment to the sometime painful emotional process we hope will be worth the gain is tough.  I need to work out what went wrong and I guess it was something like this:  you make beautiful, home-made biscuits, you bake them with love, yet if you offer them to someone allergic to the ingredients, you’re unlikely to hit the spot.  This was my mistake in offering time to a busy person.

When I think about it now, I was primarily trying to service my own need.  I value spending time and feel deeply appreciated and valued when people spend time with me. This doesn’t mean inviting someone to spend time with me when I am less busy, even offered with every good intention, will come across as a gift to them, whether or not they share my values hierarchy.

It is not just Christmas that has been commodified, it is giving in general.  However, as I have said before, stepping away from it is complex.  Hurt at what I perceived as rejection, I have beaten myself up over and over for my stupidity.  Yet I am, at the same time, aware that emotional deficit is no starting point for giving.  That easy capacity to compliment needs to start at home … if we are to get it right, we should forget martyrdom.  We must first be very, very kind to ourselves I think.

The challenge: un-consuming in 2018


The challenge is from my friend Catherine,

whose genius idea it was to set up an

‘Un-consume in 2018’

 Facebook group and make me a member.




The challenge is exactly that:  to try and un-consume in 2018, in whatever ways we can, sharing ideas and inspiring each other as we do.  I like the group because of its inclusive, fun and un-judgemental nature.  No-one is setting themselves up as an expert.  We are, simply, living and trying … and although all on different stages of the journey, as a group we have only just begun!

So, Christmas has come and gone and already I feel happier and closer to people as a result of thinking of gifts I could give them that they’d like, whilst avoiding presents in the conventional sense. Result!  This is not the first time I have tried this, as I have attempted it for a number of years, with varying amounts of success.  One issue is that the time it takes for me to think of a different ideas for each person runs out and I end up buying more than I meant to every time.  I can’t help wishing I was one of those people with an obvious craft, talent or other ‘product’.

There was the year we did marmalade, to find although it’s my dad’s favourite, many of our friends don’t actually like it!  Then the year of newspaper wrapping … I was more pleased with the way that went.  We’ve done gift brunches, vouchers, walks and biscuits:  the usual stuff! Two reasons this year felt a bit different:  a sense of connection through group membership and understanding that money spent on duty gifts can mask emotional distance.  It is therefore important to read people well to ‘get giving right’.

This year I did buy some presents, but feel my feet more firmly set on a path to less consumption and engaged in more relationships of mutual understanding.  One of the presents that touched me most was a packet of seeds from my friend Jo.  When we know we can be touched by ‘the little things’, how is it we are also so susceptible to marketing?

Given that ‘I’m just not doing presents’ is not a real solution for me either, because of the desire to show love, feel connection and reluctance to risk valuable and valued relationships, what is the way ahead?  I guess as far as Christmas is concerned I have another year to think about it.  Meaningful stepping away from its commodification seems a complex process:  done properly, the ‘un-consume’ thing is deeper than I first imagined!