Question: but surely it is normal to have ambition?
Aspiration is fine, as long as it is focused on the contribution we will attempt to make, not on the outcome.
As soon as the outcome is the focus, we're set up for unhappiness. If we want to be happy, we have to be indifferent to outcome.
There is also the problem of apparently noble aspirations (e.g. career success) concealing egoic desires.
Have a long-term plan. Great!
Break it down into individual actions. Great!
But then "be" in the actions.
Whenever our minds are other than here, except for necessary and fruitful planning, we have to ask "why?" The chances are, we're then in an egoic fantasy.
The Step Three requirement is that we be convinced that any life run on self-will can hardly be a success. Step Four elaborates upon this.
It gives worked examples of what happens when you go through life with self-centred wishes and ambitions and plans and designs and demands.
The question is: are you happy?
If not, question every belief you hold and be willing to let go of any life-long conception (page 42).
The merits of any particular idea in isolation are irrelevant. It is its role in a structure, a way of living, that makes you inevitably unhappy that must be examined to form the basis of whether the idea be accepted or rejected.
Ask God only for direction. Be pleased at whatever the task appointed is. Chop wood. Carry water. Cook the dinner. Clean your ears. Run a corporation. Win a prize. Make the bed. All the same. All for God. Not for you.
Anything I do for me turns sour. Anything I do for others comes with a price tag. Anything I do for God is endlessly fulfilling.
The holy instant in which everyday tasks transcend their apparent insignificance is eternally available.
But only once the grip of the ego has been released. How? We see through it. That is all.
From Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions:
"As to our grandiose behavior, we insisted that we had been possessed of nothing but a high and legitimate ambition to win the battle of life.
We have seen that we were prodded by unreasonable fears or anxieties into making a life business of winning fame, money, and what we thought was leadership. So false pride became the reverse side of that ruinous coin marked "Fear." We simply had to be number one people to cover up our deep-lying inferiorities. In fitful successes we boasted of greater feats to be done; in defeat we were bitter. If we didn't have much of any worldly success we became depressed and cowed. Then people said we were of the "inferior" type. But now we see ourselves as chips off the same old block. At heart we had all been abnormally fearful. It mattered little whether we had sat on the shore of life drinking ourselves into forgetfulness or had plunged in recklessly and willfully beyond our depth and ability. The result was the same—all of us had nearly perished in a sea of alcohol.
But today, in well-matured A.A.'s, these distorted drives have been restored to something like their true purpose and direction. We no longer strive to dominate or rule those about us in order to gain self-importance. We no longer seek fame and honor in order to be praised. When by devoted service to family, friends, business, or community we attract widespread affection and are sometimes singled out for posts of greater responsibility and trust, we try to be humbly grateful and exert ourselves the more in a spirit of love and service. True leadership, we find, depends upon able example and not upon vain displays of power or glory.
Still more wonderful is the feeling that we do not have to be specially distinguished among our fellows in order to be useful and profoundly happy. Not many of us can be leaders of prominence, nor do we wish to be. Service, gladly rendered, obligations squarely met, troubles well accepted or solved with God's help, the knowledge that at home or in the world outside we are partners in a common effort, the well-understood fact that in God's sight all human beings are important, the proof that love freely given surely brings a full return, the certainty that we are no longer isolated and alone in self-constructed prisons, the surety that we need no longer be square pegs in round holes but can fit and belong in God's scheme of things—these are the permanent and legitimate satisfactions of right living for which no amount of pomp and circumstance, no heap of material possessions, could possibly be substitutes. True ambition is not what we thought it was. True ambition is the deep desire to live usefully and walk humbly under the grace of God."