The difference between ambition and a pipe dream

I was trying to figure out what it is that makes some people and their dreams magnetic.

You know how it is – some people, they talk and you’re watching them speak about this vision they have, and you can feel the power behind what they’re saying. You think to yourself “This person is going places, yo. And I can’t wait to see that.”

Whereas when others have equally-awesome or equally-big ideas and I listen to them talk, I find myself thinking “Yeah, I get it. Whatever.” At first I thought it was excitement – but no, that’s not quite it. Then I thought maybe it was just a matter of sheer charisma, but I don’t think that’s it either. Excitement and enthusiasm and charisma are great things to have, but they aren’t this mystery ingredient I’m searching for here.

I’m mentally going down a checklist between two people I know in specific, trying to figure out what makes Y’s plans and attitude so attractive to me, but X’s so yawn-inducing. I was thinking about ambition specifically, and thought “But X is ambitious too! They have some really awesome ideas!”

And then it hit me – “Oh yeah. X doesn’t have ambition. They have a pipe dream.” 

Ambition is hot.

A pipe dream? Not so much. Not to me, anyways. You can dream big? That’s awesome, but I want to know how you’re going to turn it into reality. When you constantly talk about something you’re going to do but you don’t take any actual action towards, you know, doing it, we’re going to get disillusioned. We’re going to think “oh, here they go again, all talk and no action.” Or even “this is a really cool idea, I wish they’d do something with it”. We’ve all seen someone like that, who has a classic case of SOGOTP syndrome. (That would be “shit or get off the pot”. You can thank my backwoods Missouri heritage for usage of that super-classy phrase.) It’s not a good look on anyone, even though we’ve all been there at some point – whether for a business project, a difficult conversation or confrontation, a family trip, or what have you.

There’s one of three endings to this scenario: 

  1. You realize you’re being all talk and no action and you actually take some action.
  2. You realize you’re being all talk and no action and…keep talking.
  3. You realize you’re being all talk and no action, ask yourself “why no action, self?” and then realize you’re afraid, or don’t actually need to do this thing, or whatever.
Numbers 1 and 3 are outcomes I’m down with. Outcome #2? I don’t want that for you.

Worried you’re suffering from SOGOTP syndrome?

Think about the way you talk about your ideas. Do you have no idea what your first concrete step towards that plan is? Do you use a whole hell of a lot of “someday”s and “maybe”s and “one day”s? Do you have steps to take? Do you know what those steps are? Do you have a start date, or at least an end date?

If not, you don’t have ambition. You’ve got a pipe dream. 

PS: There’s no problem with dreaming big without having a detailed plan, at least at the start. And knowing the “what” but not the “how” is at least knowing something. I’m not knocking figuring it out as you go along, but sweetie, you have to take some freakin’ action somewhere along the line. 

Photo credit: ilkin


  1. Oy! SOGOTP is soooo~o annoying. I’ve got some family members who suffer from it mightily. The thing I think that makes the diff? Fear. Some people can just never get over the fear of failure. They’re too afraid of making the “wrong” decision that they just. can’t. push. the. button. This soap box you’re standing on? It looks good on ya.


    • I think fear is a big part of it – I honestly think a lot of it is denial, too. If people can sail through life without anyone or anything (internal or external) challenging the fact that they’re all talk, then it’s easy to stay in all talk + no action mode. Glad you liked the post, Tea 🙂


  2. is it just me, or does the picture look kind of like a ..vulva??

    this post HIT THE SPOT. (vulva pun intended ha)

    great reminder that i often have none other than a pipe dream. i think i run away from plans. i think of them as scary left brain logical stuff (business PLAN). i know its good for me but at the same time.. its hard for me to confront. i hope to unblock myself from all that, energetically, emotionally.


    • LOL’d at vulva comment. Oh Janet! 😉

      I wish I had more advice for the emotional aspect of planning – since it’s not something I really struggle with, it’s very hard for me to imagine what would be helpful to someone in that spot, yanno?


  3. Ah yes! I am familiar with this. Usually I am making small progress I think, but fear is a killer! I know that I’m doing it – not pushing the button (no pun intended!!) but I don’t know how to stop doing it! How to make yourself jump? That’s my question of the moment!


    • I think it’ll depend from situation to situation but just recognizing that you’re having trouble jumping is a big part of it! So good on you for that. Other than that, the only thing that helps me is figuring out why I’m procrastinating on something – is it just because I don’t want to, is it because I’m scared, etc.? And then once I have a reason it’s easier to get around it. If it’s something that needs to get done but I don’t want to do it, I can outsource it, if it’s fear I know which friends to call who can talk me off the ledge, and so on. I don’t know if that’s helpful but I hope so!


  4. Love the new blog! And I totally know what it’s like to be around people with SOGOTP syndrome. It’s annoying and I feel sorry for them just because I know they could get something done if they just tried.


  5. Hey Michelle! I can sooo identify with this post. I’m guilty of all 3. I’m currently working hard on taking action instead of being all talk and no action.


    • Hey Kristy – you know what they say, the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem 😉 BUT, all jokes aside, good on you for realizing that and working hard to turn it around. Go girl!


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