Sunday, August 23, 2015

Ambition, High Sensitivity, Too Many Interests and Having "Enough"

I've been spending a few days recently trying to get my work life organized.

I work from home. I run three "micro businesses" from the house, and help out with two more. When people ask what it is I "do," I usually tell them-- only half-facetiously-- that "I play with my hobbies for a living." How that came to be is a long story I'll write about some other time. Anyway...

On paper, that probably all sounds rather lovely and bucolic. In practice? Not so much.

Aside from the fact that I am an adult HSP living with ADHD, I tend to not get nearly as much done as I would like to, or as I need to. After all, there are "bills and things" to be taken care of!

Part of the problem (or "challenge") is that I am genuinely interested in a lot of different things, and I have always struggled with prioritizing appropriately. It's not so much because I am "scatterbrained" as it is because I see the potential of many different things, and what they could become... if developed properly. And even though I am often able to develop these things, the ongoing grind of running and tending to them soon wears me down.

Some people struggle to get "from idea to reality," but that's not me. I struggle more with "ongoing" reality. I've always attributed this to a self-perception that I am inherently lazy. I have never been a very "active" person, nor what I (or other people) would consider a "hard worker." And I have certainly never felt "driven."

As such, one of my greaest problems with being self-employed (as well as one of the "answers" to my laziness life dilemma?) is that I lack ambition. I have previously written about the issue of ambition and achievement as an HSP... and it's a topic I continue to struggle with in a world that often feels like it operates on a "work hard, or perish" value set.

What I mean by that is that I will do exactly "enough" to get by and no more. I am not lazy in the sense that I will not do my very best work, because I believe that's just "right action." I am also not lazy in the sense that I believe I should be "served" or that I deserve "money for nothing," nor that the world "owes me" anything.

However, I have no inherent ambition to "strive" and "be greater," beyond my basic ambition to just "be enough." And it's a very old feeling, for me. I remember being at University and thinking about what I was going to do and be, after graduation. At 20-something, everyone around me seemed like they wanted to "take over the world" and become the next industrial magnate, or whatever.

I looked ahead and I just wanted to be able to afford a house, a car and food-- without having to work too damn hard for it.

In years gone by, my perceived "laziness dilemma" always seemed to get in my way when I worked "real" jobs. I was never "driven," so I struggled to do well in work situations that required me be to be highly competitive. I even lost jobs because I was not interested in the work load that came with a promotion to a higher level of responsibility. I expect that may be part of my HSP nature.

Bottom line, though, was that someone whose essential sense of self was around simply "being satisfied" did not seem to fit into a world eternally focused "more, bigger, taller, richer."

Upon reflection, I have come to realize that one of the potential downsides to living by a paradigm of "doing enough" is that I often have ideas for things that "might work out well," but I lack the inspiration and ambition to put them into action, especially when things are "going OK."  If the bills have been paid, I feel no particular desire to "get moving," however good an idea might be.

Yet, many of these ideas are definitely things I want to "do later." But by the time "later" rolls around, I often discover that someone else (aka "someone more ambitious") has already taken my idea and run with it, so I can't even USE the opportunity any more.

I don't say this to have some sort of personal pity party, but to point out one of the downsides... namely the frequency with which what seemed like a potential to get "enough" gets transmuted into "nothing at all."

Anyway, this post is a bit of a precursor to more writing on the ongoing topic of HSPs, work and ambition... and how to carve out our niches in life, without getting overwhelmed and stressed out in the process.

There is also a new book that has just been released, about HSPs and careers-- more about that in an upcoming post!

What do YOU think? Does it come naturally to you to "strive" for greatness? Or are you more of an "enough to get by" sort of person? Is work a challenge for you? Do share and leave a comment!

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  1. I identify with you Peter. I am mission minded not ambitious to acquire wealth or power... though I would appreciate both in order to further the mission. It's the same reason why I cannot get into competitive sports. I think the source for me is a combination of being HSP and intellectual. I am equally left brain and right brain... Seeing both sides of nearly every argument. I usually get caught in the middle. This sort of thing is a real ambition killer.

  2. I'm with you in that I typically do what's needed and don't have that drive to "be the best" on my team and move up the ranks, etc. Sometimes I have found myself in just that position, though. That's not due to ambition, it's due to a sense of quality I am keen to deliver to clients. Like you I have lost a job due to lack of ambition. I was offered team lead, turned it down because I just wanted to stay a happy coder not a people manager, and was laid off within months. But like setbacks often do, it turned out to be a blessing in that I now work in a much more intellectually stimulating environment with no management between me and the boss anyway.

  3. I do always want to be the best at what I do, but I have never, ever wanted to be famous or rich. People don't believe me when I say that, but it's true. I lost a job one time when I refused to be on "Good Morning America," as much because I didn't want to be known as the stress it would have caused. I tend to jump into a job and work it until it's smooth, then I get bored. I wonder if the creativity of HSPs has something to do with job problems. Most jobs just stick people in a rigid slot, even - or maybe especially - the high profile jobs. I have no ambition if what that means is that I have to work a boring and stressful position to make a lot of money.

  4. I do resonate too. I love having nothing to do... just being. But I also want to do work that is unique to me, keep learning, fulfil my potential, never "retire".etc. I found a compromise in doing contract work which means some stretches of free time.

  5. HSP's aren't known to be competitive types. I have to wonder how much having only so much energy gets in the way of motivation sometimes. We know the price that will have to paid to go up the job latter (in more ways than one) and for us it just isn't worth it. Being in a "dog eat dog" type of profession was a turn-off for me so I avoided those kinds of professions like the plague. I was medically retired with fibromyalgia/CFS at the age of 51. Before that I was searching for work that had a true sense of meaning and added something positive to the status quo, though I never found my niche.

    For almost twenty years I have wondered if I have ADD myself. I too have many interests yet feel like a "jack of trades" that I don't go into any with any depth. Peter, I know that you are also in the gifted range and a fellow INFJ. Perhaps it is more giftedness than having ADD. Years ago when I was researching ADD, I ran across a webpage that showed the similarities between giftedness and ADD. I loved reading Thom Hartmann's books and definitely can relate to being a "hunter" type. In further readings with giftedness, having many interests is also a common personality trait so it is hard to know the difference. Am looking forward to more of your posts. Take care!

  6. I happened upon you and just finished reading. It felt as if you were standing in my brain and writing it down for me. Thank you so very much. It is lovely seeing it put into words.

  7. Peter, thank you for putting into words what I have always felt about myself. You have helped me feel less alone and that is no small thing! I, too, do just enough and would never describe myself as ambitious or driven but I don't think anyone owes me anything either. I have also never understood all the books etc. about being greater. Why am I not okay the way I am?

    Thanks for your posts. I really enjoy them.


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