Stacey Speller Blog

My New Favorite Thing: Graceful Ambition

Do you consider ambition a naughty four-letter word? A trait you don’t really want to embrace or take ownership of because of the stereotypes that exist. Ambitious women are pushy, they are bossy and just downright aggressive. Perhaps you’ve even heard yet another descriptive word that I will refrain from using because it causes every professional woman cringe. Yet everyday you find yourself trying to reconcile your ambition with your values, your belief and your personal responsibilities.

Early on in my career, a male colleague told me I was ambitious in a tone that was like I had the plague. My inexperienced, untempered reaction was to dig my heels in with a “so what” attitude. To double down on my over the top, get it done yesterday, goal oriented approach to things. Fortunately, wisdom and experience have taught me that ambition is a great trait when it’s guided by understanding and wisdom; it’s a liability when it’s misguided and haphazard.

Several days ago, I was being interviewed for a magazine geared towards professional women of faith in emerging nations. The columnist asked me to share my thoughts on the concept of being ambitious without being perceived in a negative way. I shared with her what has now become my new favorite thing; It’s all about graceful ambition.

What in the world is that? Isn’t that an oxymoron? Can you be graceful and ambitious simultaneously?

My answer, a resounding YES!  Having been trained as a classical ballerina for many years I learned a few things about being graceful.



1. Balance isn’t the main thing, it’s everything.

We all know that too much of a good thing isn’t a good thing. But when you consider grace in the physical sense it demands balance. Graceful ambition gives 100% toward your goals but is unwavering in your commitment to your family, your faith and anything you hold dear. This is done by having a strong center of knowing what matters, a solid core of established boundaries based on your individual values and beliefs. By having priorities that are a direct reflection of what you want to accomplish and what means the most to you.

2. Walk in love, not in like.

One of the things that I have found women struggling with is the overwhelming need to be liked. You become a contradiction of wanting to accomplish certain things but going about it in a way like you’re running for Miss Congeniality in a pageant. Graceful ambition is polite, respectful, kind, and treats  people in a way that shows you value them. When you do that you won’t have to waste time second guessing if people “like you.” It gives you the freedom to unapologetically pursue your ambition because you’re walking in love towards others while accomplishing your goals.

3. Consistently stretch yourself so you remain flexible.

Ambition should be focused, strategic and guided but it should never become rigid and hard. Understanding that life is fluid you are able to pivot and adapt quickly. This is done by having clarity of purpose that is resolute but measurable; goals that are always available for improvement; and by adjusting your ambition to accommodate the different seasons of life. Graceful ambition is willing to consistently stretch yourself, to grow and to prioritize forward progress regardless of how incremental it may be. This positions you for new opportunities and options you may not have ever considered.

Embracing the concept of graceful ambition allows you to go big, to stop playing small. To be polite instead of pushy, to be a boss without being bossy, and to maximize your determination in a meaningful and purposeful way.

Have you ever been accused of being too ambitious? Are you playing small with your ambitions to accommodate the insecurity of those around you?

Let’s talk about it. Please share the blog, leave me a comment and let’s grow together.


Comments (5)

  1. Yes! This is a challenge for me because I can be very direct. I ask questions. When given tasks, I like to be given clear expectations so that I can meet and exceed the expectations. I don’t sugarcoat.. I am polite and respectful, but again, direct. When there is a job to be done, I want to get it done. I’m not there to make friends although I generally get along with everyone. I don’t participate in office gossip and have a hard time focusing in that type of environment. Mainly because it bothers my spirit. Peers seek my help and advice on how to do their job. I don’t have a lot of time so I’d rather not chit chat..I just want to help them and move on but women really like to talk, myself included! I haven’t quite figured out how to be helpful and move along without sounding rude!

    1. Hi Jenette thanks for sharing. The word is “balance” and it’s not easy but it’s certainly beneficial. Knowing how to be helpful and yet stay focused wihtout seeming rude can be tricky. Perhaps during set times of the day, break, lunch, etc. you lend an ear or share a word of encouragement for a set period of time. And you articulate that you only have 3 minutes, 5 minutes etc based on your workload. Give that a try and keep me posted!!!!

  2. Thank you Stacy for this post. I worked with a leader who always used to say I don’t travel at 120km/hr speed with how I conducted my work which meant I wasn’t committed enough etc. She confused me because all my life I had been in positions of leadership and I got things done with perfection and poise. I always believed I had graceful ambition, sometimes if you also run in all directions you will not catch anything. Along the way she kills relationships and many of the people around her get worn out. Balance is extremely important and I believe as leaders realising that people bring different gifts and talents and they all complement the team.

    1. Hi Miss Eve,

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Yes balance is important and leaders must recognize the individuality of gifts and talents. Diversity of skills within a team are always a great combination. I would worry less about perfection and more about committment and compltion. Keep going………….

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