What Is Aspiration?

Updated November 14, 2022 by BetterHelp Editorial Team

An aspiration is a strong hope, dream, or goal. The idea of aspiration has a positive, upward connotation; we aspire to be or to become something that we perceive is better than what or where we currently are. There are many different types of aspirations, such as career, social, and personal. One way to think about the meaning of aspiration is the idea of reaching for the stars. We may never quite make it, but the act of looking and moving upwards can enrich our daily lives. In the process of reaching for the stars, we make progress forward.

How Do Aspirations Differ From Goals And Ambitions?

I Want Aspirations But I Don't Know What I Want Out Of Life

Since an aspiration is a strong hope, dream, or goal, you may wonder how aspirations differ from goals or ambitions. In some senses, these words are synonymous, but there are also key differences.

3 Differences Between Aspiration, Goals, And Ambition

  1. An aspiration is generally long-term. Goals can be almost anything. We could make a goal to spend five minutes weeding the window box, or an hour working out at the gym. These are not aspirations. They may, however, be steppingstones on the way to an aspiration. So, while some goals can also be aspirations, most goals are tools that we use to further our aspirations.
  2. Aspirations are directional; ambition, however, can be unfocused. An ambitious person may be eager to take on difficult tasks or just like to challenge themselves.
  3. An aspiration can exist without action, while ambition always provides movement. A weak aspiration can be more like a fantasy. People may say that they aspire to a goal without taking steps to reach it. Ambition, on the other hand, is always connected with action. Strong, successful aspirations require some ambition.

Is Aspiration Important?

There is another definition for aspiration that looks, at first glance, to be entirely unrelated to what we have been discussing. “Aspiration” also means to breathe something in.

On further inspection, however, the two definitions of aspiration have more in common than we might think. Aspiration, in the sense of breathing, is a physical necessity. Aspiration, in the sense of aiming at a higher goal, is a mental and emotional necessity. Our aspirations keep us going.

Aspirations answer the question “why?” Why do we sit at a desk every day? Why do we run cash registers? Why do we attend meetings? Sometimes that answer is as simple as feeding, clothing, and sheltering ourselves and our loved ones. But even these supposedly simple answers are tied to our aspirations. What are the other things that we want to do with our lives after we are sufficiently fed, clothed, and sheltered? These sometimes-mundane jobs often provide for the hobbies, families, and service activities that make up our aspirations. Our aspirations are the things that keep us moving through daily experiences ranging from the mundane, to the truly difficult, to the magnificent.

Are Aspirations Always Good?

Like almost anything, aspiration can have a dark side. Inappropriate or unrealized aspirations can cause a lot of heartaches. People may aspire to things that are completely unrealistic or disconnected from their daily lives. These aspirations may cause them to neglect important people or responsibilities. Sometimes, people’s aspirations are set by social or cultural pressure, rather than an expression of personal desire. In those cases, reaching these aspirations is unlikely to bring fulfillment to that person.

On the other hand, failing to reach our aspirations can lead to despair. Unfulfilled aspirations may even increase the likelihood of being diagnosed with major depression. Like any truly important factor in your mental health, aspiration is only one piece of the puzzle.

What Is Your Aspiration In Life?

It’s very common and normal to not know the exact answer to this question. Your story is deeply personal and different from others, and every person is on their own journey. Here are three steps to help you think about this question more critically.

  1. See if you have an aspiration or aspirations without being consciously aware of them.

Consider your actions. Are you working hard to get a degree in hopes of getting a good job? Is that job connected to higher aspirations? Perhaps you are content to work a lower status or lower paying job to free yourself for other activities, such as gaming or hiking. Do those hobbies reveal hints of larger aspirations? Or do the job and the hobbies together serve a different aspiration, such as making you a stable, well-rounded, and reliable person for your family and friends? You may be able to spot an aspiration of which even you were unaware!

   2. Ask yourself “why?”

Perhaps your actions don’t point you to an aspiration that you can articulate. We work, play, and maintain relationships for all kinds of reasons. Find a quiet space and ask yourself why you do what you do. See what answers you find.

After you find the answers to your “why?” questions, decide if you like them. Consider ways that external pressure from family, peers, or culture may be influencing your motivations. If you feel stuck, anxious, or depressed at this point, a trained counselor may be able to help you navigate your journey.

  3. Articulate your aspirations.

Once you have looked at your actions and asked yourself why you do what you do, you may find that you lack aspirations. Take a little time to think about the kind of person whom you would like to be. Is there a social role that you would like to fill? A field of activity or study that you would like to participate in? Write down a word, phrase, or detailed description of what you want from and for yourself.

What If It’s Hard To Find My Aspirations?

Some circumstances make it difficult to find or articulate our aspirations. Mental and physical illnesses may make it seem like our life is controlled by our limitations, rather than our aspirations. What can we do in those circumstances?

First, remember that aspirations do not need to be lofty. They don’t need to involve high-powered careers or large amounts of money. We can aspire to be a better person, no matter our circumstances. We can aspire to goals that may look smaller to other people, but carry much weight to us, like being an available friend.

Second, allow yourself space and time to figure things out. Aspirations are important, but they are not always urgent. Sometimes we just need to get through the day, and that’s alright. If that’s where you’re at, then it can be more prudent to put aside more lofty aims temporarily in favor of finding your footing first.

Third, if it feels impossible to think about or discover your aspirations, you may benefit from professional help. There are uniquely trained therapists who are ready to assess your situation and offer options. They may be able to help you feel less overwhelmed, more in tune with your desires and capabilities, and ready to take a look at what you truly want out of life. Online therapy may not be the first thing to come to mind when thinking about aspirations, but recent studies have shown that actions of self-help, such as finding the right online counselor, can help people actively engage in their aspirations.

Through therapy sessions, you can recalibrate your approach to life’s ups and downs. Licensed professionals can help guide you and offer resources in understanding your aspirations. Online therapy is an option you may consider if you have a busy work or personal life, and don’t have the time or convenience to attend in-person sessions. Additionally, many online therapists offer a diverse variety of schedules and treatments plans.


I Want Aspirations But I Don't Know What I Want Out Of Life

Our aspirations are the core of what keeps us moving through life. Aspirations can be the wishing star that pulls us forward or the secret inner life that keeps us going through difficult times. But to take their proper place, our aspirations need to truly reflect what we want, who we are, and what we are capable of.

Unrealistic, unmet, or inappropriate aspirations can take a toll on our mental and emotional health. In the face of this, some people decide that aspirations aren’t worth the risk. It may, however, be better to name and chase our aspirations than to drift through life without them. If we have a proper understanding of the place of aspirations, and our mental health is in good order, aspirations can serve as guides and touchstones.

If you don’t know where to start, there are many opportunities to build a strong foundation to reach for the stars. Many people seeking guidance and advice have benefitted from BetterHelp, where licensed therapists are ready and able to help you on your journey. Read below for some user testimonials from those who have used BetterHelp to realize and aim for their aspirations.

Counselor Reviews

“We clicked right away. I’ve never had a counsellor who I could talk so freely and relaxed. I’ve gone from not being able to see a future when I first started therapy, to realising my value as a community leader, learning to delegate tasks, and turning my relationships around. I know that Treva doesn’t work miracle and this isn’t magic – I did the work – but Treva has a way of getting me to believe in myself. Sometimes talking to Treva helps me to process and put into perspective how my week has progressed and I don’t need any support other than to just go over everything… But I always, ALWAYS leave the session feeling empowered. I am truly grateful for Treva.”

“Richard has the experience and understanding to identify with issues discussed, but is also able to pull out underlying issues which could have placed you on the path you’re currently walking. He empathizes and is kind, but in time you will see his honesty which is significant in redirecting your path. Be open and accepting. Be willing to listen and not just hear. If you want more out of you life, he will help you get there.”

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