I'm not an overly ambitious individual. But I am goal oriented. The goals tend to be personal, not things which would compete against anyone else. There is no scoreboard. No tick marks, no notches on lipstick cases or anywhere else. But there are lists. Some are physically noted, others are mental. Either way, I find them a powerful tool.
I remember years ago when I went freelance -- right at the time the economy took it's first nose-dive; it was 2000, and who knew what we were in for. Being the type who leaps then looks, I found myself without a parachute. "Man, six months ago, we would've hired anyone who knew where to put a comma," one ad guy told me when I mentioned I was looking for copy writing work. When the writing gigs I was told would come were moved to the back-burner, then taken off the cooker entirely, I took truly odd jobs, most of them free of writing. I took what business savvy I had and organized small businesses and individual offices. It was far from my goal, but filled time and came with a check.
To say I was broke was an understatement. I thought I had dropped twenty-grand from my annual income. At the end of the year, I found out I had more than cut it in half. As hard and scary as that was, it was also liberating. I would cash the weekly check from my Long Beach job at a bank near the Target. I'd walk over to the red bull's-eye and spend ten dollars on flowers as a treat to myself and my backyard. I had a lovely garden that year. And that simple act brought me a great deal of joy.
I also wrote out a list of things I really wanted: New sofa; leather coat; leather pants (remember, this was 2000 and those were a vital part of fashion); and a trip to Ireland topped the list. Outside of making it to the Emerald Isle, I achieved every goal, in cash. I had to be patient, look for deals, would only accept perfection. It was a pleasure and slight source of pride to draw a line through an item on that list. And, while I don't center my life on material goods, I learned what it was to really appreciate what I earned, the work that went into it, and how to use it wisely...more or less (don't pick on my pants).
I lived that way for two years. A very long, very hard two years. Then I landed regular gigs, steady clients and was finally paid a living rate. The simple goal of paying everything on time (rent, student loans, insurance and car payment were always on time; credit cards, nearly on time; utilities were paid on the color-coded system in that lean period...when they got to yellow, pink or red, the payment was called in), turned to more personal aspirations. Five years after writing it on the first list, I made it to Ireland. Then, I finally got a new computer (I tend to get one every eight years) and went wireless. Modern technology. And then I set about my biggest goal: Finish the novel.
I gave up two years of my life for this goal. Not intentionally. Once I started, I found I couldn't stop writing. The novel was interrupted by the Guide (that pink thing to your left). It was interrupted again when interest in an ancient script of mine was piqued and required a rewrite to get it into modern times. Then the novel was finally finished, sent out and a revision requested. That revision was interrupted when the script needed to be revamped. Then another script itched to be written. Now, I'm about to start my third script (that would make three in a year), outlining my second novel and slowly revising the first.
I'm not telling you all this as boasting. Gag. There's really nothing here to brag about. I'm merely noting how one little goal can spiral into more and more and more than you anticipated. Of course now the goal (and the big job) is getting it all out there. Baby steps are being made, but I am finally focusing on my aspirations with the intensity that I should...nearly eight years after the fact. The whole point of going freelance was to make my living as a writer. It took me a long time to finally get the nerve up to do just that. I hope you won't wait that long to reach for your goal(s). There's no point in putting it off. The excuses we can come up with (and, believe me, I had mine...namely rent and color-coded accounting), don't really add up to anything but procrastination, and that's such a waste of time.
Go on. Write the list. Take the leap. My only advice would be to pack a parachute. It's the wiser way to jump.