27 Ways To Overcome Lack Of Ambition
By: Corrina Horne
Updated September 18, 2020
Medically Reviewed By: Sonya Bruner
Ambition is defined as the desire and determination to achieve success. The definition of "success" may vary from person to person and culture to culture, but the message remains the same: it's important to have goals and the determination to complete them.
The Truth about Ambition
We all sometimes lack ambition. Even the most successful people in the world experience periods of failure and doubt. But they eventually succeed because their ambition reemerges, even in the wake of failure, rejection, and disappointment. Although it can be easy to fall into the trap of defeat when you encounter setbacks, ambition is not about never failing, it's about getting up when you fall.
Ambition is not an inborn trait. It can be learned and cultivated, the same as any other positive trait. A lack of ambition can certainly be overcome. The possible irony, though, is that overcoming a lack of ambition requires a certain amount of ambition itself. After all, you're creating a goal with the determination to follow through and achieve that goal. Happily, seeking out ways to improve your ambition is a step in the right direction!
27 Ways to Help Overcome a Lack of Ambition
In addition to resolving underlying issues, there are some steps you can take toward improving your ambition, or creating ambition where there previously wasn't any. These steps may be completed on your own, or under the guidance of your mental health provider.
- Find a Mentor.
Finding someone to look up to whose success closely matches what you hope to achieve can help you find the drive to keep chasing your goals.
- Make Your Goals Visible.
Whether it's a Pinterest board, index cards, or a whiteboard, create some form of visual representation of your goals so you can see exactly what it is you're working toward.
- Stay Active.
Staying active improves confidence, mental acuity, and physical health-all things that can help you stay sharp as you work toward your goals. Find an activity you really love and stick with it.
- Give Success a Try.
f you're feeling short on motivation, try accomplishing some of the steps you need to take to succeed. If you hope to secure a position writing for a major publication, visit your favorite coffee shop and spend the day writing. If you hope to have a family, ask to babysit for a friend.
- Build Up Support.
If all you see around you are people who are not pursuing their goals, you're unlikely to pursue your goals either. Try to find friends who are also working toward their goals.
- Practice an "Abundance Mindset."
Practice cultivating the mindset of abundance. See a failed relationship as just that: a single failed relationship. See a setback at your work as what it is: one setback. An abundance mindset believes there are always more to be had and always the possibility for improvement.
- Learn Yourself.
Personality and aptitude tests can offer a lot of insight into yourself-your motivations, your drives, and your pitfalls. Knowing yourself well can help you kickstart the desire to move forward when you're in the midst of low motivation.
- Use Envy Well.
Instead of getting stuck in the mire of envy, allow it to fuel you. If you envy your friend's recent cruise, start saving to go on your own. If you envy your sibling's ability to purchase their dream home, sit down and determine what you need to get yours.
- Cultivate Your Talents.
Everyone has something they're good at. Even if your talents don't immediately seem impressive ("Who cares if I can juggle?"), there's likely to be some grain of usefulness or joy in your abilities.
- Find a Need.
If you're struggling to find motivation, look outward at how you can improve the lives of the people around you.
- Make Your Own Meaning.
Before you can truly and effectively chase success, you need to determine what exactly that means to you. Some people measure success by the money they make, while others measure success by the amount of time they're able to devote to their loved ones or hobbies.
- Recall Your Triumphs.
Keep your triumphant moments close by for the days you feel you've lost all motivation. Recalling your successes can help you leave a funk behind and move forward in working toward your goals.
- Look Up to Someone.
Unlike a mentor, who is personally involved in your life, find someone whose successes you can admire from a distance. This could be someone who shares a similar background-someone who left poverty behind, for instance-or someone who shares your goals-such as someone who has worked their way to the top of their field in academia.
- Leave Negative Self-Talk Behind.
Negative self-talk may seem like merely speaking to yourself realistically, but it serves no function other than tearing yourself down. Instead of using negative speech when speaking to or of yourself, use clear and objective language. For instance, you can change "You're no good at anything!" to "You struggled at work today, and that's okay. You'll try again tomorrow."
- Respect the Process.
Success is a process, not a destination. There will always be another obstacle and another hill, so try to enjoy the process as it happens.
- Create a To-Do List.
Writing down everything you need to accomplish in the next day or the next week can help you free up some much-needed headspace, and can lend a sense of accomplishment to your day each time you get to check off another task.
Imagine what your life will look like once your goals are realized. Although you should not live in fantasy, occasionally indulging in the imagined fruition of all of your hard work can be healthy and motivating.
- Use Your Passions.
Find things you're passionate about, and see how they can help you work toward your goals. If you're passionate about painting, but yearn for a career as a teacher, you can combine the two and work toward an art teaching degree. If you're passionate about cooking, and hope to work in corporate law, you can use cooking as a means of decompressing and relaxing when your workload has grown too great.
- Seek Out Motivation
Motivation won't always come to you-sometimes, you have to chase it. If you don't feel like getting up in the morning, reward yourself with a trip to your favorite coffee shop. If you don't want to complete the paper for your class, consider all the stress-free time you'll have once the paper is finished.
- Leave Your Comfort Zone.
Comfort zones might feel safe, but they can also stagnate growth. Instead of living in your comfort zone, push yourself to adopt new challenges and try new things. The worst you can do is fail.
- Commit to Learning.
Learning is not something you leave behind after your diploma or degree. Every single day, spend some time learning something new. Read the paper while eating your breakfast, listen to a podcast on your commute to work, or even just ask a friend or coworker to tell you something new.
- Just Take One Step.
Put one foot in front of the other in pursuit of your goals. It doesn't always have to be a giant step, such as moving across the country. It can be merely researching the cost of that move. Remember: planning is part of the work.
- Believe in Yourself.
You can do hard things! You can change your life. Even when circumstances have given you a rough run, believe you are bigger than your background.
- Ask for Help.
When it becomes too much-you're overworked, or the demands on your time are too much to handle-ask for help! Bring in a trusted friend, a family member, or a coworker, and lighten your load. There's no shame in teamwork.
- Do Your Research.
Blindly following your dreams can be dangerous. If you move across the country to pursue acting, only to find that you would have to work three jobs (jobs you do not have) to afford a single studio apartment, you're putting yourself at risk. Instead, identify what steps you need to take to move toward your goals, and take the necessary time to achieve them.
- Evaluate What Is Important to You.
Sometimes goals shift and needs change. Perhaps your relationship is more important to you than the career you've always imagined. Perhaps your career is more important than the family you wanted. Give yourself the space to change your plans as you go along. Few things kill motivation as effectively as rigidity.
You'll falter. You'll lose hope. But keep working on yourself! You're the person who will be with you every step of the way, so make sure you're cultivating traits and behaviors that you like and can be proud of. Watching yourself become the person you've always dreamed of is a powerful motivator.
The Origins of Lacking Ambition-and How to Help
Because the lack of ambition is often a trait borne of childhood modeling, fear of failure, or other complex causes, overcoming a lack of ambition can often require seeking professional help in order to work through other issues, attacking the problem at the root. If your lack of ambition stems from a fear of failure, for instance, a therapist can help you develop tools to leave that fear behind and develop a healthier relationship with yourself in order to more fully and effectively understand the patterns and work that go into success. If your lack of ambition comes from a lack of ambitious modeling, a therapist might be able to orient you toward carving out your own role models. If a lack of ambition has come on the heels of age-related changes, a therapist can help you navigate your next steps.
Therapists can be important tools in self-discovery and self-improvement, as they can help you unravel the roots of problem behaviors, improve problematic thought patterns, and develop strategies to improve your life. Online counseling is becoming one of the most popular ways to work with a therapist. It's affordable, effective, and you can use it wherever you are and whenever you most need it. BetterHelp is the largest online counseling platform in the world, and can help you get connected to the best therapist to meet your particular needs. Below, some BetterHelp users reveal the ways in which online counseling helped improve their lives.
"I mainly enjoy talking to her to work through things I don't feel comfortable talking about necessarily with known people in my life. I highly recommend chatting with her if you need that little extra push or support to chase your dreams and feel confident. I also really enjoy the weekly inspiration as it gets me motivated and ready for the week ahead!"
"This past year was one of the hardest times of my life and Douglas has been a major part of helping me recover and grow from those difficulties. He has helped me improve my self-image, guide me through issues dealing with work, increase my self-confidence, learn to trust myself more, stand up for myself, and so many other positive and wonderful things. I've had periods of lows and highs, but lately, I have been successful in keeping myself in the calm middle where I can face the bad in my life and appreciate the good… I'm no longer my own worst enemy either or my own worst critic and that alone has lifted such a major burden from my heart and mind. I've been using my energy towards being happier with my life and spending it with people I love. Instead of tearing myself apart and bringing myself down, I lift myself up and put myself back together."
Developing ambition-or even the desire for ambition-often means diving into unresolved issues from your past and rewriting the habits you've likely lived with for years. In the process, you might find yourself naturally growing more and more attuned to the attributes that contribute to ambition. This journey is one that not only helps you develop ambition, but also a better sense of self, a more concrete idea of what you want with your life, and the tools required to accomplish it all. Take the first step today.