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How The COVID Pandemic Redefined Ambitions

2 Mins read

Somewhere along the way my goals shrank. During the destabilizing and most isolating months of the pandemic, my desires shifted entirely. Professional ambitions, for instance — sweeping, difficult, long-term things — washed away. They were replaced with smaller things under my control: taking a walk, calling my friend, meditating for, like, five minutes maybe. […]

NOTES: How The COVID Pandemic Redefined Ambitions

Ambitions are often guided by what we do in life, which psychologists call our values. The pandemic forced a re-assessment of those values. Especially when everything was upturned workwise, and it seemed impossible to climb the work career ladder.

In a piece on her fading ambition during the pandemic, writer Maris Kreizman noted: “I still want to create and get paid for it — a necessary evil as long as we’re living in capitalism — but our opportunities seem to be narrowing, the world becoming a little smaller each time. The scope of our ambitions must be downsized, over and over again.”

I’m tired of contributing to a culture where all our self-worth is associated with work. I’m part of it for sure. But after the pandemic year(s), I’m more sure than ever that I *am* not what I do.

– Warda Malik (@malik_warda7) Twitter, June 3, 2021

Ambition, Values and Goals

Goals are sort of the output of ambition. And there were a lot of things [in the pandemic] that thwarted our goal pursuit. But a lot of other things put in perspective the kinds of goals we’re pursuing.

When there are questions in the air about life or death or health or well being, you think a little bit harder about meaning and how you’re investing your energy.

Priorities are bound to shift when you spend eight hours at home instead of in an office. It makes a whole lot of sense therefore, that lots of folks put a greater emphasis on caring for family, and for their mental health — since they were physically stuck — as the office faded away from life.

In what felt like hardly a moment’s notice, everything changed in the world. Ambition, the thing that drives folks to success, of course had to change with the world. You had to redefine what ambition was, killing off some of what it used to mean.


Ambition is a reflection of values. And if, during the pandemic, all you’re able to value is staying afloat, then your ambitions are severely limited. 

Our ambition has been altered.

Whatever world existed pre-COVID, whatever our goals were, parts of them are gone forever. Our ambition has been altered. But that doesn’t have to be bad. Because if ambition is a function of our values, maybe we just start valuing healthier things.

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Recommended: How Employers Can Keep 2021 From Being The Year of ‘I Quit’


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