Ambition has a bad reputation – society doesn’t value it enough

It has been a bad fortnight for ambition. When the news broke of Boris Johnson’s affair with Carrie Symonds, the former special adviser was castigated for being “highly ambitious”. Now, Ruth Davidson, leader of the Scottish Conservatives, says that she does not want to be prime minister, prioritising her mental health over the quest for high office. In both, ambition is the baddie.

One newspaper described Symonds as a “flirty favourite of Tory big hitters with a canny feel for being in the right place at the right time”, as if planning your career around what you ultimately wish to achieve is some kind of crime. An ambitious woman? The horror of it!

The trouble with knowing what you want to achieve is managing the process

I consider it a compliment, rather than a criticism, to be described as ambitious. I know something about how it feels; I have wanted to be a newspaper editor since I was ten.

The trouble with knowing what you want to achieve is managing the process. That’s the bit they don’t teach you at school – what to do when you have developed the necessary tenacity to go after what you want, how to weather it. Sometimes, one envies those who don’t know where they’re headed. Life must be easier, somehow.

An ambitious woman? The horror of it!

It isn’t. Indecision is as crippling as frustrated impatience. It’s just that society seems to value indecision more than full-throttle, red-blooded ambition that just will not go away.

Ruth Davidson’s ambitions may have changed. It seems that Holyrood is enough for her. Pity. Either way, I hope she’s happy. Ambition can eat you alive.

@brushingboots

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