10 Ways Driving Ambition Helps You Succeed – Sometimes

By Nicole Beasley

Updated May 09, 2019

Reviewer Wendy Boring-Bray, DBH, LPC

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Many people wonder what it takes to succeed. And one of the answers that usually comes up is ambition. But what is driving ambition, who has it, why do they have it, and how does it help you succeed? These are questions that are driving psychologists and anthropologists for answers.

While it is clear that driving ambition can help one succeed in certain circumstances, the question becomes is it always enough. Many people are ambitious but not overly successful. Also, some research shows that driving ambition can be harmful to your quality of life and may contribute to personality disorders such as narcissism.

Whether or not driving ambition helps you succeed also depends on your definition of success. If you are driven to succeed in your career field, your ambition could take you far in that respect. But if you have sacrificed to the point of unhappiness and loneliness to achieve those lofty goals, have you truly been successful? These are questions that everyone must ask for themselves, and they are the questions that psychologists are trying to answer to define healthy ambition versus unhealthy ambition.

Definition Of Ambition

The definition of what ambition is varies depending on who you ask. The generally accepted definition of driving ambition is energy with goals. This comes from studies from anthropologists and psychologists. The idea is that with energy and no goals, you will jump from project to project with no forward motion. With goals but no energy, you remain stagnant. Driving ambition combines energy with goals to create constant forward motion.

Ways Ambition Helps You Succeed

One thing that researchers can agree on is that a healthy amount of ambition can help you succeed in many ways. Driving ambition in healthy amounts can help you grow as a person as well as become a stronger individual in mind and body. However, it is important to note that ambition alone does not always equal success. Talent, skill, and other circumstances also play a part.

Goal Setting-And Achieving

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Ambitious people are more likely to set goals and strive for excellence. Many people set goals but do not have the energy to put into making those goals come to fruition. Truly ambitious people not only make goals, but they also take definitive action to achieve those goals.

Ambitious people often set very high goals for themselves. They may not always achieve their lofty goals, but they will always come extremely close. They may take longer than anticipated to reach a goal, but they will not stop trying to attain it. Driving ambition lends itself toward making and achieving goals on a grand scale.

Personal Development

People with a driving ambition will generally go through many stages of personal development and growth. Because they are driven to be the best they can be, they are constantly looking for ways to improve their skills, talents, and behaviors. This means that many people with driving ambition are prone to being more aware of themselves and their positive traits and flaws.

Financial Stability

Most people who are very ambitious are financially stable. Having a driving ambition and desire to succeed means that they often work harder and more hours than their counterparts. Due to these long hours and dedication, they often earn more money than people who have less ambition or are simply willing to work the normal 9 to 5.

It is important to note that having a driving ambition does not necessarily mean that you are rich. Not everyone with a driving ambition makes it big in the world. However, it is common that those with such ambition can pay their bills and put food on the table without much concern.

Good Work Ethic

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People with a driving ambition in their career tend to have the best work ethics. They are not afraid of hard work and putting in the effort required to achieve their goals. They rarely call in sick to their jobs, and they tend to avoid taking paid personal time and vacations. They are completely focused on their goals, and all of their energy goes into that driving purpose.

Courage To Face Challenges

Ambitious people are generally very courageous. They do not shy away from challenges that arise along their path to greatness. They face problems head-on, with great courage and strength. This is one reason why ambitious people are sometimes somewhat feared. They do not back down from any challenge, whatever form that challenge may take.

Make Up for Lack Of Talent

Driving ambition can often make up for lack of inherent talent. Many people who are extremely ambitious are willing to put in the effort to learn a skill well enough to perform that skill to succeed in their chosen field. They may not have natural talent, but their drive to succeed in spite of that fact makes them extremely competitive.

This is not to say that anyone with a lack of talent but driving ambition can succeed. It depends on the circumstances. For example, someone who cannot carry a tune will never be a successful musical artist or singer, regardless of how much ambition they may have.

Can Keep You Humble

Having driving ambition can keep a person very humble, which is considered a very good personality trait by many people. This is because people with ambition constantly see room for improvement in every area of their lives. They are much more likely to believe that they are not perfect but to continue to strive for that perfection.

Willingness To Make Sacrifices

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People with driving ambition are willing to make sacrifices to meet their goals. For many career-minded ambitious people, this means sacrificing social interactions and personal relationships. This is not necessarily a good thing, and many people who have driving ambition to wake up later in life and find themselves very much alone.

However, the fact remains that this willingness to sacrifice is one of the things that makes ambitious people more successful. Because they are willing to sacrifice anything that does not further their goals, they are more focused and more likely to go further in their careers.

Provides Life Purpose

Having driving ambition gives people a sense of purpose in their lives. They are constantly striving to achieve a goal, and that ultimate goal is their crowning achievement. However, most ambitious people do not lose their ambition just because their goal has been met. Instead, they create new goals and are ever changing their specific purpose. However, the fact remains that they know exactly what they are on this earth to do, and they are not going to allow anything to keep them from doing it.

Recognizing There Are No Short Cuts

Ambitious people often recognize, much better than most, that there are no shortcuts to true success. They are more willing to put in the time and effort to do something right than to take a shortcut that might mean lower quality. Ambitious people are perfectionists in a way, wanting everything to be done exactly right with true effort and diligence.

When Ambition Gets In the Way

While there is no doubt that a healthy amount of ambition can go a long way toward helping you become successful, it is also true that an unhealthy driving ambition can keep you from being truly successful in life. There are a great many situations in which driving ambition can hinder you from achieving your ultimate goals.

Narcissistic Personalities

One of the things to consider about driving ambition is that an unhealthy dose of ambition is considered to be one of the personality traits of narcissisticdisorders. One study showed that driving ambition is one of the leading traits of a narcissist and can be an indicator of the personality disorder.

People with an unhealthy driving ambition are more likely to put themselves above all others. They take the competition to new heights, taking pleasure in putting down the competition to further their ends. Studies have shown that many of the world's tyrants had a driving ambition that led them to inhumane acts.

If you have this type of driving ambition, you will not have any lasting personal relationships. While you may be technically successful in your career path, you will be largely disliked and probably passed over for promotions because of it. Overall, when your ambition is this blinding, it will lead to loneliness and less successful endeavors.

Sacrificing Happiness

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A person with driving ambition may be wildly successful in their career, but sacrifice happiness to do so. Many people with blinding ambition spend so much time and effort to achieve the goals that they have little or no attention to spare for anything or anyone else. This means that personal relationships fail, ending in divorce if they even make it as far as marriage. Children get left behind, and family bonds break.

It is important to consider what success means to you. If your vision of success includes happiness, it is important that your driving ambition succeeds in career or life keeps you from achieving that happiness. Make sure that you are making time for the things that are truly important.

When To Get Help

If you have the driving ambition that has driven others right out of your life, it might be worth it to change your point of view of the world and yourself. If you are suddenly finding yourself to be very lonely and without strong personal relationships, your ambition could be preventing you from really living your life.

Whenever your ambition starts preventing you from living and enjoying your life, you have to take a hard look at what changes might be necessary. A therapist can help you analyze your current behaviors and level of ambition and help you make changes to a healthy level of ambition that will allow you to succeed both professionally and personally.


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