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Most people grow up wanting to “be somebody.” Do you remember your first dreams and desires?

It’s normal. Healthy ambition is a natural force of human development. It’s the “pulse” of evolution- to find ourselves.

Think about that sweet stage when children try to emulate grown-ups around them. They act the part through “dress-up” and take on mannerisms and lingo of their projected “hero”.  They individuate first by learning to “be somebody” or “do something” that’s familiar and reflects common values.

And then….

…childhood dreams become adolescent ambition, which instead of being further shaped by healthy families or community is shaped by the virtual expectations of our broader reality.

Our narrow glimpses into digital fantasy worlds produce glorified versions of the hero (and the villain). These versions of “hero” are seldom created through the lens of what it really takes to “become” that rarefied being. Focus. Grit. Purpose. Empowerment.

If you recalled the image of who you first wanted to become during adolescence or early adulthood… was it based in anything that was foundational in you? Or was it an image projected onto your psyche by your family or friends that wanted you to succeed (or fail)?

Or maybe your first ambitions were to be something you hadn’t seen in your local context but were abundant in the virtual reality world. Maybe you wanted to be more wealthy, successful, strong, courageous, dangerous (?) or beautiful than your own tribe.   

In the recent movie Captain Fantastic, the ambitious and purposeful (and ostracized) father attempted to keep his kids isolated from the ambitious and destructive forces of society by rearing them in an isolated encampment.

It’s hard to protect our children from the screaming voices of greed and consumption (aka- blind ambition) and the resulting powerlessness. We often give in, and let them wander into the traffic of cultural forces to fend for themselves.

While each of us has our own story of how personal ambition was formed and manifested (or not), most of us don’t realize that “ambition” doesn’t equate with finding meaning or joy.

In fact, you may have discovered that ambition has very little or nothing at all to do with Purpose. Or contribution. Or impact.

Here are the 3 main reasons that Ambition has little to do with TruePower & Purpose.

1. Focusing on Ambition = Distraction from Purpose

If your ambition is primarily about material abundance, prestige and consumption, you’re hard-pressed to also be focusing on your Evolutionary Genius or Purpose. And yet it’s the GPS of our broader cultural story.

“They” don’t tell us early on that following the yellow brick road of our culture doesn’t lead to happiness or meaning but DOES in fact lead to Oz, with all its illusions.

Ambition itself is a dead-end street. You know how it goes. After enough time in a job you took to make more money or gain prestige or drive a nicer car or put your kids through college, you’re gonna feel the soul-crushing drudgery of meaningless work.

Unless your street is oriented toward your own unique one-of-a-kind Purpose, what you’ll find at the end is the little man behind the curtain pulling strings.

If you’re in that fast car on the ambitious road, you’ll need to find the exit signs to get off and point your compass toward more meaning, TruePower and Purpose instead of the paralysis of your status quo.

2. Who’s Driving the Car, Anyway?

And the real significance of ambition is – whose is it, anyway?

If it’s NOT your ambition that’s leading you toward meaningful pursuits that create joy or yield personal or global contribution…ummm… what’s the point again? Where are you going?

If you’ve been driven solely by ambition most of your life, you may be achieving material rewards and external recognition that seems to provide confidence, esteem and power. But is it real?

Take a look at who programmed your ambition GPS… and where is it headed?  

If it’s not programmed to take you to your TruePower and Purpose coordinates…watch out for the mid-life crisis you’ll wish you’d avoided by making a detour a few miles back.

3. Purpose is Jet Fuel. No Ambition Needed.

Pointing your car TOWARD Purpose is way more more likely to yield a non-Oz outcome. And, you won’t need much ambition, because the TruePower of your Purpose is literally like a rocket pack to take you to your destination.

It’s only when you’re fueled by the driver of external rewards like money, fame or power that you need ambition to be your fuel.

And, it’s why you burn-out, become disillusioned and addicted to sports, shopping, food and substances. With little hope of internal reward, we turn to external gratification.

Orienting toward your TruePower and Purpose instead will call in ignition from the Source, which is limitless. NO fear of that organic fuel source running dry.


Ambition can be a useful map when you’re ascending a mountain top and can’t see what’s on the other side. Ambition, like Vision, places a carrot out front, to keep you going. Unlike Vision, or Purpose, Ambition by itself is focused on rewards that won’t lead to a better life. It’s the wrong endgame.

Two things I’d like to encourage you to do, now. First, join me in an online The Ambitious Woman Summit, starting April 21st (my interview airs!) running through May 2nd, 2017.

Secondly, take the very first Exit Ramp at a (very very) low risk and participate in my introductory TruePower & Purpose Explore 2-Pack. We’ll begin to uncover who you really are, why you’re here, and get you on the road to a more meaningful life. Off the beaten path to the TruePower of your Purpose. No shizzle, sherlizzle.

Holly Woods PhD is a TruePower™Activator.

As a Master Coach™ and Purpose Guide™, I mentor leaders, entrepreneurs and social change agents who want to make a bigger impact through meaningful work. I help them rediscover their authentic purpose, reinvent themselves in the world and release their constraints to living a bigger life. I have facilitated transformation for 35 years among these exceptional people. Are you among them?