27 Ways To Overcome Lack Of Ambition

Medically reviewed by Arianna Williams, LPC, CCTP
Updated May 2, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Ambition can come and go through different times in your life – this is normal and happens to almost everyone. But if low ambition is affecting your mood and well-being, you can try several strategies to help you get to where you want to be. 

This guide highlights 27 ways to increase your ambition so you can feel more motivated to reach your goals. And if you’d like help through this process, talking to a licensed therapist might help you identify why you’re feeling less ambitious and how to overcome it.

Understanding ambition

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Learn how to get motivated and increase your ambition

Ambition refers to the desire and determination to achieve success. The definition of “success” may vary between people and cultures, but the role of ambition remains the same: reaching your goals.

The most successful people in the world also experience periods of failure and doubt. But they eventually succeed because their ambition reemerges, despite experiencing loss, rejection, or disappointment. 

Like most positive traits, it’s possible to learn and cultivate ambition. If you want to improve your ambition, you already have a goal. And if you're researching how to accomplish that goal (e.g., reading this article), you're already demonstrating a drive to achieve it. 

Is it normal to lose ambition?

Yes, it can be normal to experience a loss of ambition for various reasons. For example, many experienced challenges with motivation during the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020. In addition, with ongoing uncertainty around the future, it may feel challenging to work towards goals, or you might experience burnout due to increasing pressure in your life.

Other factors contributing to a loss of ambition might include underlying fears, pursuing goals because other people want you to, or experiencing mental health conditions like depression

Believing that you are less ambitious than you have been previously can feel unsettling. 

If you’re concerned about an ongoing lack of ambition or motivation, speaking with a mental health professional may help. A licensed therapist can help you process what you’re experiencing and determine what steps to take. For example, research suggests that online therapy can improve self-efficacy, which refers to an individual’s belief in their ability to accomplish their goals. (Mental health research is constantly evolving, so older sources may contain information or theories that have been reevaluated since their original publication date.)

Do people lose ambition as they age?

It’s relatively common to lose ambition as we age. The Families and Work Institute conducted a study that suggests that individuals start losing their ambition to advance in their company around age 35.

At first, we may seek fulfillment through workplace success or earning a certain amount. However, we might later shift our focus towards raising a family or other experiences that provide a sense of meaning. Alternatively, ambition might look different in different life stages as our perspectives on success and happiness shift.

27 ways to help overcome a lack of ambition

If you're not feeling as ambitious as you'd like to be, you can take steps to foster ambition. You might want to complete them on your own or with the guidance of your mental health provider.

For example, working with an online therapist allows you to have sessions at home on your schedule, which may feel similar to setting aside time to plan on your own (And there's no commute). Then, your therapist can help you define your goals, create a plan, and track your progress.

1. Find a mentor or role model

Finding someone to look up to whose success closely matches your goals can help you find the drive to keep working towards them. For example, you might find a mentor at your workplace or pick a famous figure you admire as a role model.

2. Make your goals visible

Whether it’s a Pinterest board, index cards, or a vision board, having a visual representation of your goals can help you stay connected to them. Then, when you need motivation, you can look over your goals and remember why you’re working hard. 

3. Stay active

Exercise improves confidence, self-esteem, memory, mood, and physical health, which may help you focus on your goals. Find an activity you love and stick with it — it might be dancing in your bedroom for 30 minutes a day, walking your dog, or taking a local fitness class.

4. Set small goals

Breaking your larger goal into small ones may help you see your progress, which might fuel your ambition. For example, if you want to write for a major publication, you might spend a day writing a piece for your portfolio at a local coffee shop. Or, if you desire to have a family, you could babysit for a friend or local parent.

5. Find support

If you spend all your time with people who aren't pursuing their goals, finding the motivation to work towards yours might be more challenging. Instead, try to also spend time with friends who are motivated to reach their goals.

6. Practice an “abundance mindset”

An abundance mindset refers to believing there’s always more to be had and the possibility for improvement. Cultivating an abundance mindset might help you feel more positive about your life. For example, you may see a setback at your work as it is: one setback. 

7. Learn about yourself

For some, personality and aptitude tests can offer insight into your motivations, strengths, and weaknesses. Knowing yourself well may kickstart the desire to move forward when you're experiencing low motivation.

8. Use envy strategically

When used strategically, envy has the potential to fuel you. For example, if you envy your friend’s recent cruise, use that as motivation to start saving for your own. 

9. Cultivate your talents

Everyone is good at something. You can likely find usefulness or joy in your talents regardless of what they are. For example, if you can juggle, you might make a video course teaching your skill to others. 

10. Find a need

Getty/Luis Alvarez

Consider how you can improve the lives of the people around you to see if something inspires motivation. For example, helping others might lead to professional opportunities or personal fulfillment.

11. Define success

Determining what success means to you might make it easier to pursue your goals. For example, some measure success by their income and others by the amount of time they can devote to loved ones or hobbies.

12. Recall past successes 

Thinking about times when you succeeded in the past can help motivate you to work towards your current goals. You might journal about how you felt when you reached a goal or look at pictures of a particular moment you succeeded.

13. Minimize negative self-talk

Negative self-talk can be discouraging, so you might replace it with positive or objective language. For example, you could change “I’m not good at anything!” to “I struggled at work today, and that’s okay. I’ll try again tomorrow.”

14. Respect the journey

Success is usually a journey, not a destination. Many of us get in the mindset of rushing to accomplish a goal, but this might cause us to ignore learning experiences and small accomplishments.

15. Create a to-do list

Creating a to-do list with everything you need to do the next day or week might help you relax and trust that you won’t forget things. And it can create a sense of accomplishment each time you check off a task.

16. Daydream

Daydreaming about what your life will be like once you realize your goals might provide much-needed motivation. It also has the potential to help you clarify your ambitions.

17. Use your passions

Think about things you’re passionate about and consider how they can help you achieve your goals. For example, if you’re passionate about painting and want to start a career as a teacher, you could work toward an art teaching degree. 

18. Create motivation

Sometimes, you need to create motivation if you're not feeling it. For example, if you don't want to get out of bed, you might reward yourself with a trip to your favorite coffee shop before work.

19. Leave your comfort zone

Comfort zones might feel safe, but they have the potential to hold you back. So, consider pushing yourself to explore fresh ideas, such as learning a new language to further your career. 

20. Commit to learning

Learning new things may help you find fresh ideas, connections, and opportunities. It doesn't need to be big – for example, you might listen to a podcast on your commute to work or ask your friend to elaborate when they bring up a topic you're unfamiliar with.

21. Take one step

Finding one step you can take toward your ambition may motivate you to take more. For example, if you want to move across the country, you might research the cost of that move. 

22. Believe in yourself

Reminding yourself that you can do hard things and change your life might help you feel ready to pursue your ambitions. And if this is overwhelming, consider talking to a therapist who can help you explore how to change your thoughts or beliefs about yourself.

23. Ask for help

If you're overwhelmed by the steps needed to accomplish your goals, asking for help might make it easier. Consider asking a trusted friend, family member, or coworker to lighten your load – there’s no shame in teamwork.

24. Do your research

Researching your goals might help you avoid disappointing setbacks and understand how to accomplish them. 

25. Allow your goals to change

Sometimes goals change, and that’s okay. If you feel like you’re not ambitious, maybe you’re working towards an old goal instead of allowing it to evolve with your life. 

26. Work on yourself

Cultivating traits and behaviors you like and can be proud of might help you find the confidence to pursue other ambitions. For example, you might consider what kind of person you want to be and if you have behaviors that don't fit that vision.

27. Start therapy

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Learn how to get motivated and increase your ambition

A therapist is an unbiased ally who can help you understand yourself and what you want from life. For example, if you have a fear of failure, a therapist can help you explore what caused this fear and how to overcome it. They can also help identify whether you're experiencing mental health disorders and, if you are, how to minimize their impact on your ambition.

Online therapy might be a viable option for those people for whom traditional therapy is not an option. Research indicates that online therapy can be an effective method of improving intrinsic motivation in some people. This internal drive to do more may drive them to be more ambitious and help them pursue the kind of life they want to live. (Mental health research is constantly evolving, so older sources may contain information or theories that have been reevaluated since their original publication date.)

Counselor reviews

“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.”

Takeaway

If you're not feeling as ambitious as you'd like, consider trying one or more of the steps we’ve explored above to get motivated. And for those who’d like to work with a licensed therapist along the way, BetterHelp offers an easy way to start. BetterHelp is the largest online counseling platform in the world and can help you connect to an experienced therapist who meets your needs and preferences.
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