Saturday, January 14, 2012

The balance between ambition and contentment

Anyone who has worked with me, lived with me or just hung out with me will tell you that I am rarely satisfied. It is true; I am constantly pushing. I always want more. Not stuff – goodness knows I have too much stuff already. I want to do more, learn more, write more, share more and change more. I rarely celebrate accomplishments and often miss them entirely. If you had asked me six months ago, even two months ago, I would have claimed these traits as assets. I think I've changed my mind.

My epiphany started at a retreat recently hosted by networker extraordinaire Paul Nazareth. In the days since, I’ve come to realize that this ambition and drive that pushes me, and those around me, can also be a liability.

So my very late New Year’s resolution will be to strive for more contentment and I’ll tell you how I’m going to do that in a minute. First I must tell you about the retreat.

Purpose: As quoted in the invite from Paul: “We all attend too many "sessions" and "conferences" this is a chance to meet people and have a real, quality human connection and discuss issues and challenges if comfortable. If not, a quiet natural space to just spend a quiet moment”

Our agenda: Introductions and lunch

The place: A wonderful farmhouse in the heart of the Caledon Hills

The rules: no twitter

Who was there: A diverse group of people - for profit and non-profit folks, novices and veterans, social media junkies and other more well-rounded human beings. We were all connected to Paul some way and many of us really needed time to slow down.

Paul didn't even wear a suit!
The day was perfect; the people were warm, open, kind and interesting. We had great conversations about dogs, planned giving, personal growth and a number of other things. I even was treated to a knitting lesson from Anne Rosenfield and saw Paul in something other than a suit! The really sticky bit of the day for me was something that Colleen Bradley shared during a short structured group conversation. In her coaching work Colleen encourages people to make a list of 100 things they are grateful for. Mundane things like…a clean bathroom sink or minted toothpicks.

I confess to having heard of this before. I am even a proud owner of a dog eared copy of The Book of Awesome. Perhaps it was Colleen’s calm, gentle and inspiring presence or maybe it was because of the opportunity to pause and really listen, since the retreat I’ve started having small random thoughts of thankfulness. During these moments of purposeful gratitude I’ve come to realize that I also feel a moment of contentment. It is really nice.

So on this blog post I’m going to start my list here. I will continue sharing on twitter and facebook in the hope that perhaps you will also post small things you are grateful for and together we can share this positive energy that is created

Today I am grateful for:

1. Quiet

2. Dry clean MATCHED socks

3. My daughter

4. My son

5. My husband

6. A loving home

7. That we have enough food

8. That my puppy cuddles under blankets and warms my feet

9. A black shirt with no dog hair on it

10. Warm, clean soapy dishwater

11. When the entire kitchen is clean

12. Afternoon naps

13. Fireplaces

14. Nice hotels

15. Homemade pasta

16. When the 5:30am bus is warm

17. People who have had a profound impact on my personal and professional life:

18. High School Drama teacher Paul Kershaw

19. College Drama teacher Kathryn Shaw

20. ED at my first fundraising job Carol Luck

21. Current boss Caroline Schultz

22. Fundraiser Ken Burnett

23. My host in Nepal Ram Adhar Kapar

24. Passionate donors who REALLY care

25. Fresh snow on the car that doesn’t have ice under it

26. Sunsets

27. Sex

28. Wet dewy cool summer mornings

29. Crickets in August

30. The sound of Chase playing piano

31. The sound of Skye playing guitar

32. The amazing people who teach my children

33. When my puppy goes OUTSIDE to “relieve himself”

34. Nepal

35. India

36. The blue lagoon spa in Iceland

37. The Netherlands

38. Clean laundry

39. Sunday brunch

40. A full gas tank

41. Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc

42. Puppies who keep me warm while I’m blogging

This list will continue…

Those of us who exist to serve, who have made it our mission to create a better world, must constantly strive to do more. We must be driven and ambitious for ourselves and our organisations. We must also make time to pause every day and be grateful for small miracles. It is kind of like putting your own oxygen mask on first, the world needs us to be well.

Ambition IS an asset – when balanced with gratitude and contentment.
Will you join me and start a list of gratitude? What are you thankful for today? Please share.

 Thank you for spending time here.


  1. So lovely. Great post Kimberly - I'm glad you got so much clarity from Paul's retreat.

  2. "We must also make time to pause every day and be grateful for small miracles. It is kind of like putting your own oxygen mask on first, the world needs us to be well. "

    I love this analogy!

    I, too, came across this technique before, back in 2007, and it changed my life. I feel it was the life lesson that took me from adolescent into adult. I used to be very 'in my own head' but after reading The Secret (LOL!) where this trick is described, I became the positive, happy person I hope people see today! It's definitely how I feel :)

    I think the reason it works is because it demonstrates, like nothing else, the fact that your happiness is a power that lies within you and no where else. Happiness (contentment) is a daily choice and for me that realization was life changing.

    When I first started, I would lie in bed for a few minutes each morning after waking up and start my list in my head. (It ALWAYS began with either puppies or ponies) it would only take a minute for a big smile to spread across my face to start the day - and after a week or so, I didn't even need to make a list anymore - I would just wake up smiling! Our mind can do amazing things..

    Love this post Kimberley :)

  3. Wonderful post indeed Kimberley!

    This is exactly why an event like this has been a dream of mine for the past year. So grateful for the many folks who made the time to invest in personal renewal!

    Thank you for always being "open source dialogue". As a leader in our community you have no idea how much this inspires others. Said someone from the retreat "just knowing there are ED's out there like Kimberley has given me hope".

    I've started my own list today! Thanks again,

    Paul Nazareth

  4. Gosh...thank you everyone. So glad this post seems useful to so many.

    (Paul I need to just clarify that yes I have been an ED, however, my current job is as a Director of Development.)

    slightly blushing...

  5. Appreciate it...Kimberley..Great work and supa likes...:-)

  6. I love it,Excellent article.I am decide to put this into use one of these days.Thank you for sharing this.To Your Success!

    Rc Helicopter Parts|Rc Helicopter|Mini Rc Helicopter

  7. Check out this amazing school fundraiser you cant buy daily deals and give back to schools.
    Video link -

  8. I agree what you said Kim that "We must also make time to pause every day and be grateful for small miracles". Let's be happy with the small blessings that we have and thank God for it. Life is already the greatest gift He has given so we must thankful about that. In addition, there's nothing wrong of being ambitious as long as we know how to make it to reality.

  9. >Ambition and contentment are key values for your success and happiness. They are factors you'll use to make decisions and take actions.