Four Powerful Words
…by Prill Boyle
One evening several years ago, as I was prodding my husband Michael to
take another step up the career ladder, he looked me square in the eye
and said, “I\’m not ambitious. If you want fortune, fame…or fancier
digs, be ambitious for yourself.” He told me that if I wanted to be
President of the United States, he\’d be happy to be First Gentleman,
but he was tired of trying to live up to my idea of a successful
Those four words—be ambitious for yourself—changed the tone of our
relationship and opened a new chapter of my life. I took a critical
look in the mirror and saw that part of why I\’d been pressuring Michael
and my children to be superstars was to make up for the fact that I
hadn\’t been tapping my own talents. I also admitted that I wasn\’t
loving my husband the way he deserved to be loved—for who he is.
As a result, I resolved to celebrate Michael\’s lack of ambition (how
wonderful to live with someone so easy-going and emotionally
supportive!), tried to lighten up with my kids, and began to explore my
own aspirations. Over the next decade and a half, I went back to
college, earned a couple of degrees, launched a teaching career, and
became a writer. I didn\’t just bloom once; I sprouted new growth every
few years! Along the way, I\’ve learned some lessons that might help
those of you who are hoping to make a life change:
• Don\’t fall into the comparison
trap. Why waste energy fretting over whether someone is more
accomplished than you are? Even if you have an identical twin, the
truth is that you came into this world alone and you\’ll die alone. In
between birth and death, you\’re given an unspecified amount of time to
create a life for yourself. The question is: How do you want to use
that time? In your heart of hearts, what do you feel called to do?
While it\’s commendable to care deeply about other people, it\’s
important not to let others dictate your choices.
• Avoid either/or thinking. If
you\’re in a job that pays the bills but doesn\’t jazz you, don\’t
sabotage your dreams by thinking the alternative is to starve. Say
you\’re a lawyer who secretly wants to be an artist. You don\’t need to
quit your day job in order to draw. After work one night, why not just
paint a picture? If you like it, paint more. It\’s that simple.
Eventually, you might be able to parlay your passion into a profession;
but even if you can\’t, your life will be richer and more satisfying
than if you hadn\’t painted at all.
• Banish guilt! You may (or may
not) be a nurturer, but that doesn\’t mean you have to spend your entire
life taking care of others\’ needs at the expense of your own. It\’s not
selfish to pursue your passions; it\’s your birthright. Successful late
bloomers might not make dinner for their families every evening, but
they ultimately inspire their children, become role models for the
people around them, and use their talents to help others.
Despite my husband\’s willingness to be First Gentleman, I have no
desire to be President of the United States. But I am ambitious, and I
do want to make a difference. That\’s just who I am. My family is
already starting to wonder what I\’ll do next.