The World of Hamish McBeth
My partner and I don’t bother about Christmas very much. It doesn’t mean much to her and I loathe the commercialism; so we tend to leave it alone.

This year I did buy myself a small Christmas present – a Hamish McBeth novel, called Death of a Charming Man, from Amazon.

[The Hamish McBeth novels are written by ‘M C Beaton’, who also writes the Agatha Raisin series; as well as writing under her own name of Marion Chesney. She is an awesomely productive novelist – often producing 2, 3 or even 4 novels in a year.]

The reason I bought this novel (I almost never buy novels, which I usually only read once – preferring to borrow from libraries) was for its ending. It is a murder mystery in which the main character Hamish, who is a policeman, finds the killer, but on the way makes a series of mistakes which result in him being demoted. A romance he had been pursuing comes to an end – and he is feeling petty about how he responded to the ending. Many things have gone wrong and the weather is miserable to boot. Hamish is cooking some food in his police station and he realises that he is right back where he started at the beginning of the story. And then he realises that he is in the place he loves and starts whistling.

This is quite an ending and Hamish’s realisation comes in the final couple of paragraphs. It is a lovely piece of writing.

I love it because, for me, it is about being content with what we have. Hamish is without ambition (except in the sense of wanting to stay in the village he loves, doing work that is not too demanding).

I find this restful, peaceful and consoling.

I find an adrenalin fuelled life to be draining. Over the last year I have been working too hard – 6.5 days most weeks. It has not been good for me. I have on occasion felt stressed and it hasn’t helped my relationship with my partner either. This was as a result of an agreement I entered into in March which will end in the coming March. I won’t be entering any kind of similar agreement ever again.

The World of Internet Marketing

Over the last year I have been writing and marketing eBooks. This has meant that I have become familiar with the world of internet marketing.

The world of internet marketing I find to be full of ambition and fuelled by adrenalin. All that hype about ‘massive action’, ‘instant results’, ‘taking control’, ‘making decisions’, ‘total commitment’. . . All the hype is quite hyper (if you’ll excuse a bad pun).

And it is usually in the cause of not having to work again – being able to spend time with family and in leisure. Which reminds me of a parable I read in a business book (apologies, I forget the name but it is now widely circulated).

A business consultant goes on holiday to a resort in a relatively poorer country. He ventures outside the resort he is staying in and meets some local fishers. He sees them just sitting around talking. He thinks this is quite a waste: they should be out there: fishing, being productive, making money.

So the business consultant starts talking to the fishers and tells them that they can make more money. They ask him what for. He tells them that they could invest in buying a bigger fleet to catch more fish, and so they would have a higher standard of living. They could end up living high off the hog; they could live the good life and then retire.

The fishers ask the business consultant: And then? The consultant says: well when you retire you can do a little fishing and spend time talking to your friends.

I think most of our drivenness produces little but stress and the ill-health that results from it. We live on a planet of remarkable resources; some of us live in societies of great wealth. And most of the people in these societies – across the whole income spectrum – are stressed. To quote Manfred Max-Neef: this is a stupid way to live.

For me the world of internet marketing is a particularly intense example of one aspect of our culture: the part which asks us to be productive, focused, adrenalin-driven and ambitious.

Advocating Ambition
Those who advocate ambition usually say that nothing will happen without it. I have a couple of replies to this:
Firstly, most of what is done is not worth much. We are perpetuating unsustainable and unpleasant lifestyles (depression is being spoken of as an epidemic in the wealthiest countries on the planet!). Decisions made under stress and while feeling driven are not likely to be good ones: to arrive at good decisions in complex situations (and our lives are usually certainly that) some time and quiet is usually required. These simple requirements for good decisions are rarely met.

Secondly, I think it is wrong to say that nothing would happen without ambition. Children play and do many strenuous things for no external reward at all. Adults devote many a ‘useless’ hour to ‘unproductive’ hobbies, sports and crafts. I think without ambition we would not stop doing things, we would just do different things – activities that gave us pleasure and that perhaps enriched our relationships and created beauty.

Clarity
I think it is possible to let go of ambition and find stillness – and from here we can gain clarity. This clarity naturally includes (in our culture) to make money – it is no use kidding ourselves. But with clarity comes a reduction in stress. We can set about doing what we need to do or learning what we need to learn without feeling driven.

We may find, if we stop and find stillness, that we have joy. We may find that our joy is expressed in doing particular things – even quite strenuous things. But in doing these things we will also find nourishment, we won’t experience being drained by stress.

I would like to hear from you about your attitude to ambition and contentment. Those who disagree are especially welcome to comment. Have you found ambition helpful to you or a hindrance? Have you found contentment nourishing or has it lead to slothful indifference for you perhaps? I look forward to hearing from you.


Would you like to feel less stressed?
Could you do with more joy in your life?

The answer is living authentically. Buy the book or sign up for the course now from my Living Authentically website.

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10 Comments to “In Praise of Contentment (critiquing ambition)”

  1. I agree. I’ve been toying with a relevant post and will probably refer to this one.

  2. Evan says:

    I look forward to the post. Thanks for your comment.

  3. Adelaide says:

    I think you’ll find a lot of detectives like Hamish.

    Kate Atkinson writes about Jack Ryan, and he has a similar “want to stay in my village” vibe.

  4. Evan says:

    Hi Adelaide, I’ll check out Kate Atkinson. Thanks for the tip.

  5. Adelaide says:

    Actually the hero’s name is Jackson Brodie.

    And the book I read was When will there be good news?

    Pretty tops of the top as far as popular literature will go.

  6. Evan says:

    I’ve got a reserve on one about Jolly Murder (or something) at my local library.

  7. Kaushik says:

    As you know, I write about awakening, and in awakening many of our ideas get turned upside down. Insight came to me with the freeing up of energy, as you call it, with contentment, when there wasn’t a mad chase for a career and many other things. Of course, it’s difficult to see it this way, because what is continually taught and re-inforced are the conventional ideas of success.

    Thanks for opening up an important subject.

    k

  8. Evan says:

    Hi kaushik. It is good to hear about people’s experiences. It is great to hear from you about awakening and I very much agree that this is not what is taught and re-inforced by our culture. Thanks for your comment.

  9. Mark says:

    Evan,
    You have done a remarkable job with this writing. I agree with you that ambition in many ways is overrated and over stated. I prefer to work smarter and not harder, I prefer to be rather than to chase after being something. I love the parable about the business consultant and the fisherman, this has been one of my favorites for quite some time. We are here to experience this journey and at the end of this leg of the journey we will all find that the only accumulation that we get to take with us are the experiences we have had, everything else will be left behind which means that none of it was all that important anyway. Thanks for sharing your wisdom.

  10. Evan says:

    Hi Mark, thanks for the compliment. I like ‘smarter not harder’ too. Thanks for your comment.

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