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.

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


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.


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