Ambition, Goal Setting, and Balance – Keith Kurlander & Dr. Will Van Derveer – HPP 114
Culturally, ambition is often talked about in relation to career or professional goals. However, ambition is a conversation that can be a very relevant part of various areas of your life. And while it’s amazing to be ambitious, it’s equally important to focus on enjoying the journey all along the way.
In today’s episode, we’ll take a deep dive into a conversation around ambition, goal setting and balance. Join us as we discuss the importance of setting goals and embracing the journey along the way. We’ll also share some of our personal ambitions and our experience navigating the journey to achieving them.
Defining Ambition – 03:04
And so I think culturally, often, ambition gets defined through career metrics. And maybe there’s some other things, but it seems like we often associate that word on more of these cultural levels, and I think that that’s a pretty shallow and limited definition of ambition. Personally, I think it shows up in career, but it shows up in other areas of life also.
Keith’s Personal Ambitions Early in Life – 07:26
So you know, some people in my adulthood would say I was very ambitious in my 20s. And other people would say, looking in being like, well, not in my scale of ambition, right? And so I was very ambitious in personal and spiritual development in my 20s. I mean, that was real. And I was somewhat ambitious and pursuing a graduate degree and opening a private practice. And, obviously, that’s quite ambitious, in a certain way to open your own business and do these things. But then I got more in touch with the concept of ambition, more of my late 30s and early 40s, where I was like, unleashing, like allowing permission to be highly ambitious.
Will Finding His True Ambition in Life – 16:56
And in ceremonies, again, and again, I sat with questions, brought the question to the ceremony of is this my path? You know, is this the next step for me? And what kept coming back was from, you could say it came from my own inner divinity, or some people would say it came from the medicine or, you know, from the universe, or wherever it came from was this very definitive statement of No, Your destiny is different. We don’t need you to be a shaman, we want you to help bridge the world of a different approach to healing into western medicine. And you’re in a position to do that.
Understanding What Prevents Some of Us To Achieving our Goals – 21:38
What I get curious about is that I think there’s a lot of people that walk around with a lot of ideas about what they want to go after in life, floating through their minds a lot all day long. And they don’t take many steps toward those ideas. Or if they do, it’s, you know, a very, kind of trickle process. But, you know, when I was working with clients, you know, however many I saw, there was many stories of like, I have all these thoughts in my head and desires and things, but I don’t see me doing this, and I can’t seem to stay consistent, or I can’t go after them, or there’s reasons not to go after them.
Embracing your Journey & Celebrating Progress – 43:30
As we are wrapping up, there’s a few highlights that we’re going over here, I think one is to, first of all, embrace your journey genius that’s already brought you to where you are, yeah, and doing an inventory of what it took, no matter where you are, in this life, of what it took to get to where you are than what you’ve already achieved. Just being alive is an achievement. A big one, actually, that’s for sure. A massive achievement. So there’s a lot of I think that’s the first piece is really loving what you’ve achieved. That’s the celebration you’re talking about. Because if you can love the achievement you’ve already created, you’re way more likely to achieve something at another level.
Full Episode Transcript
Keith Kurlander, Dr. Will Van Derveer
Keith Kurlander 00:08
Thank you for joining us for the higher practice Podcast. I’m Keith Kurlander, with Dr. Will Van Derveer. And this is the Podcast where we explore what it takes to achieve optimal mental health. Hey there, everybody, welcome back to the podcast. Today, Will and I are gonna go into a deep conversation about ambition. And one of the factors around what ambition is, what are the metrics? How do we talk about that? from individual to collective to society, to what gets in the way of ambition to what’s playful about ambition, what’s stressful about ambition, all that good stuff? So that’s what we’re getting into, right Will?
Dr. Will Van Derveer 00:17
Yeah, it’s a fun topic. There’s a lot of different aspects of it and I know for me personally, it brings up a lot of different kinds of feelings for sure, and I think that’s common for people to feel a lot of different things about ambition and what does it mean to to have ambition or be an ambitious person or for people to, you know, say you’re ambitious or to, to feel ambitious yourself, feel your own ambition, what it brings up for people.
Keith Kurlander 01:22
Yeah. Well, let’s dive in. You want us to get started with something? So you want to pose our first question or topic?
Dr. Will Van Derveer 01:31
Sure, yeah, I think that the first for me, the place to start is kind of like pros and cons, or light and shadow, maybe of a bit ambition, and also the cultural context, which I think is always interesting, the way that you’re in North America, in the US, we relate to ambition in a particular way, personal ambition, individual ambition, versus where we’re trying to go as a community as a country, as a species, what were we trying to get to? Do we have goals?
Keith Kurlander 02:08
Well, why don’t you kind of lay the foundation of defining what we’re talking about with ambition. So I think it’s important to think of ambition in different areas of life. If we talk about our culture, at least in maybe more Western Hemisphere, that’s not probably true, I definitely think in America, and there’s definitely countries in the eastern hemisphere too that when you talk about ambition often people think about career and professional goals. But that’s not really what we’re necessarily talking about today, we’re talking about how an individual would perceive ambition in different areas of their life. Right?
Dr. Will Van Derveer 02:53
Keith Kurlander 02:54
Dr. Will Van Derveer 02:55
That’s an important distinction, Values.
Keith Kurlander 02:58
Could you bring up culture and like, cultural definitions of ambition. And being ambitious, right. And so I think culturally, often, ambition gets defined through career metrics. And maybe there’s some other things, but it seems like we often associate that word on more of these cultural levels, and I think that that’s a pretty shallow and limited definition of ambition. Personally, I think it shows up in career, but it shows up in other areas of life also.
Dr. Will Van Derveer 03:32
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, what’s important to you right can drive ambition in a particular area doesn’t have to be a career necessarily. Yeah, so there’s a wide range of areas of life. And I mean, we could list some, but it’s somewhat arbitrary of how, you know, an individual could define these however they want. But obviously, there’s career and there’s family. You could say there’s spiritual development, personal development, finances, there’s different areas right of how we could define and look at where people could be ambitious, and choose to pursue ambitious goals. Right? Right. Yeah, for sure. I mean, I think as a kid, what felt safe to me was to pursue, how would I put this, I felt more safe pursuing goals that were in my, where I felt like I actually had some skill, and I could develop some success.
Keith Kurlander 04:39
Yeah. And what did you pursue?
Dr. Will Van Derveer 04:41
So yeah, so for me, it was mainly academics and sports are the two main things and so I would go, you know, try to be the captain of the team or get the next merit badge or the next rank in my Boy Scout troop, or get the I tried to get the A on the on the exam or doing things that probably from the outside looking in were ambitious, but they were also ways for me to feel safe and myself feel secure.
Keith Kurlander 05:13
Yeah, I think as a child, most outsiders looking at me would probably say I was not an ambitious child, looking across areas of my life as a child, although, you know, I think that I probably was actually ahead of the curve and ambitious in my adeptness, at computers, and whatever, right, that’s an ambition, right. So I was somewhat ambitious in terms of adapting to computers coming online, and understanding them, and learning about them. And I was not as ambitious in school, although I was very bipolar in my ambition in school. So every other semester was like a, b, c, like A’s one semester B’s one semester, C’s and B’s one semester, A’s one sem. So like my ambition, and we could talk about, I think it’s gonna be really cool to talk about, what gets in the way of staying consistent in different things that you want to be ambitious around. So I didn’t have a lot of external metrics and goals that you could look at and go like, Oh, here’s the metrics that could show that I was ambitious. You did, though. You have the A’s, and you had the Eagle Scouts and the trophies and you could see your results in your ambition for sure. From what I’m hearing, but you know, your childhood, right?
Dr. Will Van Derveer 06:39
Well, I had a lot of different kinds of privilege in my life that allowed me to pursue those things. There were tremendous challenges of course, inside the home that I grew up in. I’ve talked about that before on the podcast, but I think that the reasons, I guess what I want to share is that the reasons for my pursuit of excellence were partly because I like to compete at a high level. I like to push myself to be as strong or as fast or as smart, or as well informed as I can be. But there was also in childhood anyway, there was a lot of fear that was driving my ambition, as well. It was mixed into that for me.
Keith Kurlander 07:25
Yeah. So you know, some people in my adulthood would say I was very ambitious in my 20s. And other people would say, looking in being like, well, not in my scale of ambition, right? And so I was very ambitious in personal and spiritual development in my 20s. I mean, that was real. And I was somewhat ambitious and pursuing a graduate degree and opening a private practice. And, obviously, that’s quite ambitious, in a certain way to open your own business and do these things. But then I got more in touch with the concept of ambition, more of my late 30s and early 40s, where I was like, unleashing, like allowing permission to be highly ambitious. For me that came later than it sounds like for you, more, I actually had to sort of work through some aspects of myself that was stopping me from aligning with the identity of being a highly ambitious person that will pursue huge visions, whether I succeed or fail. And that was a big process for me to undertake that and to commit to that. So there was, you and I are a little different there, I think, because you, you sort of were taken on different ambitions than I took on for sure. Earlier on, I think.
Dr. Will Van Derveer 08:50
Yeah, different paths, for sure. And I wonder, you say you arrived at it late. I know you had a lot of different elements of what you went through and what prepared you for unleashing the ambition that you have now in your life. I’m wondering if you would, you know, share some of the elements of what that process was like for you?
Keith Kurlander 09:17
I think it’s, you know, I’m probably talking about different areas of life, right? So, in childhood, I think I was a very scattered child. And so it’s hard for me to even conceptualize with so much disorganized attachment patterning, and so much scattered ADHD type persona that I had, and it’s hard for me to really think about as a kid how to define my ambition in most areas of my life. But then in early adulthood, it came online, I think pretty quickly, particularly in one to two areas, which was more like spiritual-personal development, and also relationships. I think that I had a lot of ambition around having a good relationship, that that was important to me. So those came online. I think that, you know, by nature, I was inquisitive and more of a philosopher. And so I think I put ambition behind the aspect of my personality. But what didn’t fully come online, again, it took some ambition for me to go to graduate school and create a private practice that was obviously ambitious. But I think it was in my mid to late 30s. And I think it was really my work in the Ayahuasca churches that I was a part of, that kind of lit a fire inside of me like, I don’t know, I’m just speaking, you know, free associating here. But I haven’t thought about this. But I think that in terms of when I really committed to being like, I’m going to go after the biggest vision inside of myself, in my career, let’s say, specifically, in the way I serve in the world. I’m gonna just unleash that in the biggest way I can. And I’m actually going to achieve the visions or I’m going to die trying, like that message started coming through. But it wasn’t until my late 30s that that started coming through. That I’m going to achieve something, some huge vision of myself, or I’m not, I’m just going to die but I’m going to keep trying. I think that was my work in my Ayahuasca churches in my mid 30s. And I think it came out of, for me, and I’ll wrap up here, I think for me, unleashing that level of ambition and the commitment to it came out of for myself, going into such challenging places in myself, and realizing that life was short. And that it was so important to serve while I’m here. I think the second piece that came out of it was having a child. I think that the next catapult was like that work in my 30s in the medicine church, again, which most people know, I’m not a part of that anymore. It’s not serving me right now. But then the second big catalyst was realizing where you’re going to have a child, and that we wanted that. And I was like, well, now I have another reason. That’s not just me, it’s not even just like the world that I’m trying to serve, like, there’s a person coming and I need to show up for this person in the biggest way I can be like I need to be my fullest expression here and demonstrate that to my child. So I’ll stop there.
Dr. Will Van Derveer 12:44
It’s kind of like, setting an example of how free or how empowered a person can be in the pursuit of self expression. Is that fair? Is that what you mean, when you talk about a father wanting to.
Keith Kurlander 13:03
That’s what I meant. Yeah, I mean, role modeling became important to me, to role model to my child, to my future child, that I was willing to go after whatever expression was inside of me. And that, like, that’s a lot of work. I mean, to really push one’s self continually to get to the edge of that expression. And that’s the ambition for me, it’s like getting to the edge of that expression is ambition. And that’s a lot of work. And I had a lot of reasons not to do that previously in my life, like to go a little slower and, you know, and so, I think it was a combination of that, I think, also being in a good partnership with my wife, Emma. Like, I think that she actually helped challenge me through a lot of things that were slowing me down in my ambition. Yeah, so that was me. I mean, you asked me about, you know, how did that rise through me? I think those were some three pivotal factors, there are others. And I think ultimately, for myself, not everyone operates this way actually, but I think a lot of people do, which is, I had to find a vision that was so far beyond me and the needs of just myself that when I sort of fully stepped into a global vision, then I had a reason I felt like to do whatever it took, because there was a lot more impact if I succeeded. So I think that the more my vision got bigger in myself, the more I was willing to find the ambition to actually go after it. Yeah, that makes sense. So your ambition obviously changed over time too, because the ambition to create this company together required a way different level of ambition, right? And anything previously in your life.
Dr. Will Van Derveer 15:10
Keith Kurlander 15:11
The hurdles and obstacles and challenges to grow something like this. So I’m just curious about, if you’re aware of it of different factors that lead to the ambition for you to grow a company that’s serving a lot of people.
Dr. Will Van Derveer 15:27
Yeah. I mean, the growth edge of leading an organization with, you know, dozens of people working with us, collaborating with us, it’s an intense growth edge to work every single day. And it’s also incredibly inspiring. And so I feel deep, deep gratitude, to get to come to work every day, and bang out the difficult task of facing my own limitations as the leader and falling down, you know, every single day, and learning and growing and the ambition to start the Institute really was born out of a whole process for me that involved for me, it also goes back to Ayahuasca and my relationship with healing trauma in Ayahuasca circles for many years, and coming into facing myself in those dark nights of the soul, so to speak, especially as my first marriage was ending. And I considered for a while abandoning Western medicine and becoming an apprentice to the Ayahuasca shaman that I worked with for so many years. And I was in conversations with him to start that process. And in ceremonies, again, and again, I sat with questions, brought the question to the ceremony of is this my path? You know, is this the next step for me? And what kept coming back was from, you could say it came from my own inner divinity, or some people would say it came from the medicine or, you know, from the universe, or wherever it came from was this very definitive statement of No, Your destiny is different. We don’t need you to be a shaman, we want you to help bridge the world of a different approach to healing into western medicine. And you’re in a position to do that. And it was like we were the collective, we need you to do that. And then in short order, I’ll get to the end of this answer in a minute, very quickly here. But in short sequence, after receiving the message, in my spiritual path, I met Krista and for the first time in my life had the kind of relationship that supported me to while demanded of me is more like it supported and challenged me to be the fullest expression of who I can be in the world and in parallel with those two experiences, I was studying with John Demartini. And, you know, his work around empowerment and values and the different areas of life helped me to understand that there were deeper gifts that lived inside of me that I hadn’t given the world yet. And it very much worked together with this message from Ayahuasca that I needed to occupy a different space. So there was a different way I could show up and give gifts into the world. So it was a very explosive moment, at a personal development retreat. Kristin and I were at where the question from the leader was, what is the biggest gift you can give to the world? What’s the biggest expression for the rest of your life and I realized that I wanted to go global with my vision with you. And so here we are. So it definitely took a lot of healing for me to shift my ambition out of kind of go get the rewards of the culture and like, Be a good boy and like, get the things that people get who are safe inside. This is my psychology. It’s like I want to get to the things that make me feel safe and the culture and now it’s more about pushing the envelope as you said, of me giving myself as fully as I can. So you know, when I lie down at the end of my life, I can say you know, I left it all on the field. I gave everything I could give.
Keith Kurlander 20:01
Yeah, it sounds like you are also multifaceted. But you sort of had a spiritual calling. You had a deep personal work going on, you had relational work going on that just sort of brought a new level inside of your ambition and how you wanted to give and be here and serve.
Dr. Will Van Derveer 20:20
Keith Kurlander 20:21
Yeah, I’m curious too, about what. And I’ve read a lot of memoirs, I’ve watched a lot of documentaries around people achieving the heights of what they imagined they could achieve in their respective fields, right, a bunch of things in politics and entertainment, and sports. I always get very curious around these visions for their lives, that are large in the sense of what it would take to get there. You know, the amount of commitment and growth and devotion and discipline and effort and you know, what causes someone to just keep plowing through to achieve those heights of what they have for their minds in their lives and, you know, one thing I think I’ve seen it myself, but in a lot of these things that I’ve watched and read is that it seems like one is that I mentioned, which is it seems like people have a vision that’s way beyond themselves. It’s like there’s the self and other right? If they have a big enough vision, to have a big enough ambition to follow it. So it seems like that’s one factor. What I get curious about is that I think there’s a lot of people that walk around with a lot of ideas about what they want to go after in life, floating through their minds a lot all day long. And they don’t take many steps toward those ideas. Or if they do, it’s, you know, a very, kind of trickle process. But, you know, when I was working with clients, you know, however many I saw, there was many stories of like, I have all these thoughts in my head and desires and things, but I don’t see me doing this, and I can’t seem to stay consistent, or I can’t go after them, or there’s reasons not to go after them. And so I’ve become very curious of like, well, what causes a person to just continually refine going after these things and continue getting more consistent going after these ideas and visions inside of them? Okay, I’m curious about that. I don’t know what your sense is about that.
Dr. Will Van Derveer 22:41
Yeah, I think that I’m also curious about it and not as much as you, but I have looked around to see, you know, how are other people relating to this. And I feel really inspired by people whose stories are more public around this to learn from. And I think that what I’ve noticed in my own kind of journey with this in my life is that I get more disciplined and more consistent when my ambitions or my goals are fully aligned with this kind of soul imperative of the fullest expression of my being in the world. And I also, you know, you and I, with a background of psychotherapy training have kind of a secret weapon in relating to our own psychologies, where I can see that parts of myself are not on board with going bigger in my life. There are plenty of fears that come up around that, that I relate to every single day, that can derail the consistency and the discipline that it takes to achieve big things.
Keith Kurlander 24:05
I’m glad you brought up psychology because kind of a nuance, I think that’s important to discuss is the difference between visions and fantasies, visions for life and fantasies about our life. Yeah. And then I think there’s people who have visions for life that are having trouble going after those visions. And they’re struggling with that. But then there’s also just the daily fantasies, right that will never go after, and they’re not even meant to go after. That’s not the point of those thoughts. So we typically don’t have ambition around our fantasies. Some people play out their fantasies a lot. We don’t typically achieve much other than the same thing over and over. You know, like addictive cycles or things we don’t typically grow something I Through fantasies that are large and, and fantasies. So just differentiating here. When I say fantasies, I’m talking about the thought process, the more cognitive process of we have these, you know, daydreaming moments that give us relief, typically, from challenges we’re feeling, right. And we sort of have a fantasy of something that would make our lives better than what’s happening in our perception at the moment. To me, that’s not a vision. And that’s typically not, I don’t think that source of ambition personally, from what I’ve seen, and what I’ve, you know, what I see myself what I’ve learned from clients, and from everything I’ve followed around individuals who’ve had large ambitions, it doesn’t seem that it’s much driven around the fantasies of relief. But sometimes it can be but highly ambitious people tend to not be driven a lot by the fantasies of relief in the moment of what’s challenging. I think the vision that carries ambition a long way is when we see something in the future that we already know is going to happen. That aligns with what you’re saying, or what’s important to us and our values, we just see the expression of it over time, and we’re going after it. And maybe we don’t see it, 20 years out, but maybe we see it six months or a year out right are three years out of the field, we could kind of see it, we know it can come true inside of us because it’s a vision. I mean, the whole word vision is about actually seeing something that extends outward. So I believe that, you know, ambition is much more grounded and rooted and more much more likely to follow ambition and meet higher levels of goals, you could say in that ambitious process. swum, we’re in the visionary state, and ourselves versus the fantasy state.
Dr. Will Van Derveer 27:08
Yeah, I think what comes to mind is the neurological differences between those two states, you know, the kind of animal mind of using fantasy to escape from some kind of challenge, as you said, it’s more of a lower brain kind of to be generalized, a lower brain kind of function, versus the more I would say, more emotionally stable, front part of the brain that you know, is more abstract and can hold a bigger vision that is less personal, where our human potential can be embraced for, you know, generosity and compassion. And I was having a conversation with Adam Ghazali, from UCSF about these brain networks that are involved in everything that we do, of course, as humans, and we were talking about compassion. And he said something really interesting to me, which I think is relevant here about ambition, which is that he said, compassion cannot exist without attention. That compassion is determined by how much attention you can hold. And I think it’s a really interesting way to think about mindfulness and presence and developing the muscle of kind of the gray matter, or the front part of the brain that we’re talking about. Where another hallmark of fantasy versus vision is distraction and fragmentation of attention. Right. So I think that’s part of what you’re talking about is like, you’ve got to, or most people have to, most people are not born with a lot of or even taught in childhood, how to develop the muscle of attention very much. Especially not now with digital childhoods, and all the things so babies. Yeah, exactly. Yeah, iPads, Jr. So, it’s just an interesting thing to think about how this lower part of the brain actually uses less energy than the visionary part of the brain. Visionary part of the brain is expensive to run, gray matter. And all the layers and the interactions between neurons cost a lot of energy to run electrically, versus lower level brain areas, which are more reactive and impulsive.
Keith Kurlander 29:55
Yeah, and if you’re inefficient in running , You’re gonna burn out of it quickly. Right? So it’s easy to shift, obviously, from these different areas in the brain into different mindsets, right? From visionary mindsets, right? into survival mindsets that include fantasy, and obviously your surroundings affect that and your, the systems, you’re a part of the fact that and impact that and who you are, where you grew up and what’s around you. And I think that’s a good point, though, that, to me, that movement in the brain, right of the cultivation of returning to visionary, the visionary experience in the brain, it’s the practice. And it seems like in the highly ambitious people I’ve met, I’ve met quite a few now that you would sort of labels highly ambitious, not just in career, but like, these are people that are continually trying to, once they’ve hit a plateau of achievement of the things they set out to do. They’re now settling and then creating a new plateau in their head, right, and they’re moving through, it’s sort of like hiking the next peak. And they’re creating this new thing. And it’s not the only way to live, obviously. But it’s one way of doing this mechanism. And it seems like though, that the people I’ve met are continually entering growth oriented mindsets, visionary oriented mindsets, they’re popping new visions about their life, they’re setting strategies to go after them. And then they’re in training. Now the wind happens, and they’re back in training the next day, right? So it’s like we did this whole project, this happens for you. And I hear all the time, in the institute in the clinic, like we have some big project and are trying to create a new training something that people need and want and value, and it’s this huge push, and it’s, it takes all this effort. And then if it’s successful, then you’re like, Wow, that was wonderful. And there’s so many people that love this. And then of course, like within a few days, we’re back in like, what’s the next thing that people need? So it seems like there’s some kind of way that as ambition takes more and more hold on a human being, there’s this returning to this vision of like, what is my vision for my life? What am I doing right now, to be walking on that path? That that sort of doesn’t have to consciously be worded that way in a person’s head, but it’s being demonstrated in a person’s life on a day to day operational basis, as people keep embracing ambition more? Yeah.
Dr. Will Van Derveer 32:47
And I’m glad you mentioned a growth oriented mindset, because I think that’s also a really key element of developing a sustained visionary mindset is having a willingness to take responsibility for your own limitations. And tackle your own limitations as a project that will serve the greater good. If you strap yourself to a big mission, that’s gonna require years to build and, you know, dozens or hundreds of collaborators to, to see it through. You can’t get anywhere, at least I can’t get anywhere in the mindset that I drop into. And I’m super stressed about the idea that other things are beyond my control and holding me back. I have to get back in alignment, as quickly as I can acknowledge the state that I’m in, bring the witnessing consciousness back and get back on track with how I can solve this problem? For example, for me, like earlier this year, it’s like, oh, I need to go back to therapy. I’m having a lot of interpersonal limitations that are coming up for me. And working with people all day, I gotta go back to therapy, or I need a coach for this. Or I’ve got to get my fitness routines down so I can actually support this front of the brain that I want to try to make my home address. Move into a better neighborhood.
Keith Kurlander 34:31
Right? Yeah, well, I mean, I think as a process of as you create more in the world, you start to learn that you need to have more self care, and different tools to keep that engine operating efficiently the Mind Body Spirit engine. It’s like there’s more and more To relate to about where that engine is going off the rails, right? It’s like, as there’s more and more complexity around you that you’ve sort of invited in, through creating more whatever area it is, again, in your life that you’re getting very ambitious around, you keep inviting more complexity to bring order into. And so I think that that acts as the mirror of where the fine tuning has to keep happening, to meet that new level of complexity in your life. And that includes, like the exercise, and the nutrition and the daily habits and all these things become more tangible. I think, over time, more complexity comes in. I see, like I’m getting in my way here, it can’t meet this new level that I have this vision of, unless I adapt and take better care of myself right?
Dr. Will Van Derveer 36:02
Absolutely, I was just, yeah, I mean, reflecting as you were sharing about the different things that are needed to adapt to the higher level of complexity for me, the way I relate to that is, you know, throughout my life, I liked exercise, I enjoyed exercise, I exercise pretty regularly. But I was exercising for a completely different reason from why I exercise and how I exercise now. You know, I was exercising, then as kind of a coping strategy for stress, like I would get the endogenous opioids, I would feel great. And then within a couple of days, if I hadn’t worked out, I would feel bad again, and then I would go do it again. Now, it’s more like, if I don’t have my shit together, on every level, I’m holding back the expression of this beautiful vision that I see possible. Right. And it feels bad to be the limiting factor in the expression of division.
Keith Kurlander 37:05
Yeah, I think that, I had that awareness in my early 20s, around the vision I had, then I think one thing that happens for people too, is they can get into comparison games around what they’ve achieved. And that, you know, where they’re at, if they can get in comparisons, like I’m so far behind. And I think that that’s not a great way to approach ambition. Because, you know, when I think about my early 20s, and when I say I wasn’t as ambitious as I said, but there were still things I was going after, I still was facing the same questions. Whatever I was achieving in that moment in time, when I was deciding to go to graduate school to be a therapist, and then deciding to open a private practice and scientists go find my 20 to 50 clients, and then deciding whatever the next thing was, citing to find my wife and saying that my child and deciding to have a home, like, I was still facing these things we’re talking about, at the same level. It’s just relative, right, which is like, I was facing an efficiency problem and a lot of ways that were I needed to address in order to achieve those things. I needed to address it on some level, I had such severe ADHD, I needed to address it on some level that when I went to grad school, though, I probably could have addressed it a lot more. But I needed to address it on some level to get through grad school, right and do well. And I did that through trauma work. I didn’t know I was doing it directly for trauma work, but it was. So I think that it’s you know, this is all relative, and people get in these sort of comparison cycles of where they’re at and what level then it’s like anything I’ve achieved now. Certain people talk to me, and I’ve actually seen it happen, they go into shame. But like I don’t even I’m like not even thinking about what I’ve achieved. Now. Is that ambitious? I’m looking at other things in the future that I haven’t achieved as ambitious. Right. So I think that one thing is part of the work is neutralizing, and embracing, like the level we’re at took something, it took a lot of us to get to where we are, wherever we are, it took so much. And then can we embrace the journey of what do I need to do right now to bring more order into the complexity I’ve invited in, right to invite in the next level.
Dr. Will Van Derveer 39:35
Yeah, and I think there’s also this trap. It’s similar to what you’re saying about comparing and feeling like you’re behind but there’s also this trap that I’ve experienced a lot in my ambition of not taking the time. You were talking about a few minutes ago like okay, we did that, we took on that big project and we completed that and I think that As for ambitious people, I think it’s easy to forget how important it is to celebrate the accomplishments that come with working hard and getting somewhere. And whatever. Domain, you know, and into your point about comparing. The other thing I think is really interesting is to take we were you and I were talking about this right, before we got on here about, you know, take control of who is defining ambition, you know, rather than having comparison, by default, you know, make the definition of ambition, right? Oh, so and so did that, and therefore, I’m less versus, like, what does it look like? Is it maybe this sort of a call to action? At the end of this conversation is as we wind down is like, what is your definition? Right? of success or, or ambition inside of your own priorities?
Keith Kurlander 41:03
I think that is a great call to action. Just first answering for yourself. What are you actually prioritizing right now in your life? And what is your vision in the near future for your life? Right? And has it been a recurring thing you haven’t been really able to achieve? Has it been in your head for 10? years? 20 years? 30 years? A lot of people have that right. And that’s okay. But then it’s like, if that really feels like a vision, if you really see the coming truths, then I think it’s, I think, a good call to action. It’s just like, Well, why haven’t you achieved it? What’s the real reason? Right, what’s what’s stopping you from getting more ordered, and bringing in more water into a strategy to get there?
Dr. Will Van Derveer 41:17
Keith Kurlander 41:29
Dr. Will Van Derveer 41:53
Exactly. And what kind of resources internal and external, inside of you and around you that you don’t currently have a lot of access to that would turn this vision into a plan, you know, to get on the road toward manifesting the vision? I certainly lacked internal and external resources earlier in my life that have, you know, kind of I have so much gratitude for the journey, and learning about how to bring those resources home to support the manifestation of the vision.
Keith Kurlander 42:34
Right. Yeah, I think that’s good, too. And some people who have limited external resources, then, then it’s the next kind of call to action. Well, what else would support you in this journey? Is there something else that can help you get to the next part? Yeah, the mission, right?
Dr. Will Van Derveer 42:56
Yeah. And one particularly powerful lever for me, is relationship. And I’m talking about accountability. And you know, like the way you and I support and challenge each other, the way Christa at home challenges me every day to look at how aligned I am, in where I’m going. And if I’m out of alignment, you know, I hear about it right away. And we have that agreement with each other. So, to me, social accountability is incredibly powerful for me.
Keith Kurlander 43:35
Yeah, I think for me coming through this conversation. As we are wrapping up, there’s a few highlights that we’re going over here, I think one is to, first of all, embrace your journey that’s already brought you to where you are, yeah, and doing an inventory of what it took, no matter where you are, in this life, of what it took to get to where you are than what you’ve already achieved. Just being alive is an achievement. A big one, actually, that’s for sure. A massive achievement. So there’s a lot of I think that’s the first piece is really loving what you’ve achieved. That’s the celebration you’re talking about. Because if you can love the achievement you’ve already created, you’re way more likely to achieve something at another level. I think it’s very hard to achieve the next level when you actually hate the achievements you’ve had your whole life. And that’s it, then you’re in more of a fantasy like, well, someday I’ll have an achievement I actually love. Right. So that’s like, the first thing is I think doing the inventory of what have you achieved? What can you stand behind and say I did achieve this? And owning that and embracing that and looking at the genius in yourself that got you there? Right. I think that’s a critical piece. It’s huge. And there’s many others too, that we’re talking about here. Today, I think a strategy that’s aligned with your, what’s important to you, making sure you’re in a vision versus a fantasy. And just doing the work to distinguish between the two, noticing if there’s a lot of comparison or fear in the desires, that’s typically that lower brain state, putting kind of simply and noticing if there’s a lot of inspiration and light and feeling like it’s going to come true in the visionary state, and then setting out the strategies to go after the visionary state in organizing our days and around the states. And I, I really believe that when we do this, these visions are bound to happen for every individual, that next level that’s popping in the front of the brain that we see it’s coming true, if we can believe in it enough and actually put some behavior behind it. And if we can’t put behavior behind it, it’s mostly the law of attraction. I don’t know. But I don’t think it’s enough at first.
Dr. Will Van Derveer 46:10
Yeah, I mean, a little bit of social accountability goes a long way for me and cementing the behaviors into place. And so that’s what I want to also add at the end here, as we conclude is, find someone who you can trust, if you don’t know someone you can trust about this, that’s okay. Go find someone, find a new person, who also is going to set goals that you can help them stay on track with. So it’s a fair and symmetrical exchange of care, really, to challenge each other to stay on track, support each other when you fall off the rails, and you know, go down some blind alley, and it’s super helpful to have someone who cares about you to tap you on the shoulder and say, Hey, where’d you go?
Keith Kurlander 46:59
Oh, well, I’m glad you said social because another one, which we didn’t talk about, I want to add in is to find people you can hang around that are not out of comparison. But to learn from that you have achieved the next thing you’re trying to achieve, and try to find them and hang around them. And that could be in any area of life. Again, it could be family, or parenting, or it could be in finances and money. And it could be a career. And it could be in all these different areas. Right? It could be in personal development, but find people that clearly have achieved the next thing and hang around them a lot. Because they’ll be operating, their whole organism will be operating in the level that your vision is predicting for yourself, and therefore is going to be different. And that’s why you don’t want to compare yourself to them. But I think that’s another important piece is trying to meet and hang around people that you see and go oh, that’s I see characteristics there of the next thing I’m trying to achieve. I think that’s good to wrap up there. Those are more good for good takeaways, right? Yeah, yeah, that’s been falling apart until our next ambitious podcast.
Dr. Will Van Derveer 48:11
Yeah, check back in, in a while and ambition.
Keith Kurlander 48:15
Check back in. We look forward to connecting with you again on the next episode of the higher practice Podcast where we explore what it takes to achieve optimal mental health.