Frances Ashton (@FKAEnglish) explores what ambition looks like, beyond the ‘big dream.’
I advocate passionate dedication to the pursuit of short-term goals. Be micro-ambitious. Put your head down and work with pride on whatever is in front of you… you never know where you might end up.- Tim Minchin
During a weary Friday evening recently, when my frazzled brain could cope with little more than a stream of Netflix documentaries and online browsing; I came across Tim Minchin’s commencement speech at University of West Australia. Stood in front of hundreds of young graduates, he did something unexpected. He told them to think small: to be micro-ambitious.
Flying in the face of the usual cascade of messages to ‘think big’ and ‘aim high,’ he reiterated his advice to commit yourself fully to the work you have in front of you and seize opportunities as they appeared.
His message resonated with me. Whilst I think it is crucial, especially for women to be fearlessly ambitious and unapologetic, it is also important to recognise that this glass-ceiling-shattering impulse doesn’t have to take the form of a specific goal or job or opportunity. You can be ambitious; want to move forward professionally and personally and yet not have a beautifully formatted 10 year plan neatly organized on a handy sheet of A4.
I didn’t always know I wanted to teach, and yet I now know there is nothing else that I would prefer to do or be better at.
I have always struggled to answer questions like ‘where do you see yourself in 5 years?’ worrying that my answers about ‘always seeking challenge and development’ in some way betrayed other women.
But what I have always done is hold myself to high standards. I invest fully in the tasks I have in front of me, taking a great deal of personal and professional pride in ‘a job done well.’ Over time, this approach has brought me opportunities. Now seated in an Associate SLT job, I am taking the same approach I always have: keeping an eye out for the next opportunity and making it happen when it does. My work with the MTPT Project arose from my own commitment to my CPD and love of my job and now the conversations I am having about developing the Family Friendly Schools Award are stimulating and unanticipated.
Ambition comes in many forms. For some it really is the dream role they will relentlessly pursue. For others, it is a day to day commitment to bringing their best selves to the table. And they are both as important as each other.