Identifying Your Calling: What Is My Ambition In Life?

Medically reviewed by April Justice, LICSW
Updated June 4, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

As people navigate life’s ups and downs, the question “What is my ambition in life?” can come up often. This question seeks meaning and purpose and is often driven by a strong desire to achieve something significant. For some people, this sense of purpose aligns with their work.

According to Forbes, one study by McKinsey & Company found that approximately 70% of people find their purpose solely through their work. However, other people may find their calling outside work through their hobbies or passions in life.

Understanding and channeling this deep-seated ambition into positive and productive paths can be challenging. Below, we’ll explore how to find your calling, identify your personal and professional desires, and build a support system that can help shape the journey toward success.

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Are you struggling to define your ambition in life?

Understanding ambition

Understanding ambition involves exploring the desires and goals that inspire human beings to strive for success. Ambition is a strong drive to achieve one’s personal aims and objectives in life. It is typically an essential component of self-motivation that pushes individuals to embrace new challenges and work toward their long-term goals. 

Balancing one’s personal life with one’s professional journey can be crucial in this context, as achieving harmony between career ambitions and personal pursuits can enrich an individual’s life experience. The distinct paths chosen by different people often reflect the nature and scope of their ambition in life. For instance, some might find fulfillment by starting their own business, while others may dedicate themselves to social causes. 

Practical approaches to identifying ambition

When embarking on the quest to identify ambition, it can be important to find practical strategies that provide direction and clarity. One strategy is goal-setting, a powerful tool that can aid in recognizing your passions. It may help to use the SMART framework, which entails setting goals that are: 

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Time-bound (SMART) 

This framework may help you explore what you truly desire, both personally and professionally. These goals can act as stepping stones that guide you toward your passions in life. 

Along with goal-setting, self-reflection and introspection may help with identifying your calling. This process can encourage individuals to delve into their inner world, examining their desires, passions, values, and motivations. Through self-reflection, a person may identify patterns, strengths, and areas for improvement, which may offer valuable insight into personal and professional ambitions. Additionally, regular self-reflection can allow people to change their path as needed as they learn more about themselves and what they want out of life.

Introspective practices, such as journaling, mindfulness, meditation, or guided introspection, can effectively encourage a deeper understanding of oneself. Together, goal-setting and introspection form a practical approach toward identifying one’s ambitions, setting the groundwork for a fulfilling journey toward personal and professional success.

Dream job and career path 

A dream job often symbolizes an individual’s career ambitions, reflecting their unique aspirations and desire for fulfillment. It is often more than just a professional title; rather, it is a manifestation of their ambition, passions, skills, and values combined.

The journey to realizing this dream job isn’t always linear. It may require navigating different career paths, each presenting unique lessons and opportunities. The process might involve stepping into unfamiliar territory, grappling with new challenges, and constantly learning. Self-motivation can play a pivotal role here, pushing individuals to persevere through obstacles, pursue their goals, and be honest with themselves about their strengths, weaknesses, and what makes them happy. 


An article on career aspirations in Forbes says, “It is completely possible that a job exists that fulfills one's passion. However, if one has multiple passions or those passions evolve over time, that one job will likely not hold the title of ‘dream job’ forever. Your career will likely lead you on many adventures. Dream big, be open to change, and every so often, ask yourself what the dream job is right now.” Acknowledging the evolving nature of one's dream job and embracing the journey rather than fixating solely on the destination may lead to a fulfilling and dynamic career path marked by personal growth and ambition.

The role of ambition in human beings

Some researchers believe that ambition is an evolutionary product that fuels the drive for survival and improvement in some people. Ambition can end up playing a large role collectively, steering human society toward innovation and advancement. In psychological terms, the desire is often tied to individual motivation, personal achievement, and self-efficacy. It can significantly shape personal choices and career paths, guiding individuals toward their goals and aspirations. 

However, ambition often requires a balance with contentment. While ambition can propel individuals forward, a sense of satisfaction with one’s current situation can be equally essential for mental well-being. This balance can ensure that while someone can strive for more, they also take time to appreciate their present achievements and circumstances. 

According to research published in the journal Consulting Psychology, researchers have theorized that “ambitious individuals have learned to be effective at balancing their attention and awareness to achieve their goals. In other words, the mental focus necessary to be an ambitious person translates into many of the same qualities associated with mindfulness.”

The balance between ambition and contentment can result in a healthy approach to personal and career growth. Individuals can ground themselves amidst their pursuits by acknowledging and valuing what they have and where they’re at currently. Simultaneously, ambition can act as a compass, guiding someone toward their future goals. This balance can form a significant part of the human experience, combining the drive for progress with the tranquility of acceptance. 

Ambition and mental health

Ambition, when channeled effectively, can serve as a catalyst for growth and success. It can fuel a person’s drive to overcome obstacles, allow them to persist in the face of adversity, and help them work toward fulfilling personal and professional goals. However, ambition and mental health tend to share a nuanced relationship, with each influencing the other in various ways.

While ambition can be a powerful source of motivation, pushing individuals to strive for more and pursue their goals, unmanaged or excessive ambition can lead to stress, anxiety, and burnout. These mental health concerns can, in turn, hinder a person’s ability to pursue their passions effectively. 

Additionally, mental health can play a significant role in a person’s ability to maintain ambition. Mental health challenges can affect motivation, focus, and productivity, affecting the pursuit of ambition. Tools such as therapy can provide the necessary support for improving mentally, professionally, and personally. 

Balancing ambition with contentment can be crucial for mental well-being. Individuals can learn how to pursue their goals without compromising their mental health and appreciate present achievements while still aspiring for more. This balance may help prevent feelings of inadequacy or dissatisfaction that may arise from constantly comparing oneself to others or an idealized version of success. 

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Are you struggling to define your ambition in life?

Seeking professional help for personal and professional ambition

Identifying and pursuing your ambitions can be difficult, especially if you’re just starting on your journey of personal discovery. If you think you could benefit from professional guidance and support along the way, online therapy could be a powerful resource to consider. Online therapy platforms like BetterHelp have thousands of licensed therapists, all with experience in different areas. You can match with a provider who has experience helping people identify their passions and professional goals. With the ability to connect with a therapist through video chats, phone calls, or live chat, you can receive support without worrying about geographical limitations or time constraints.

The efficacy of online therapy

Lacking motivation or ambition in life could be the result of a mental health condition. In these cases, online therapy could be useful, as research has demonstrated online therapy to be effective for a variety of mental illnesses. In a comprehensive analysis, researchers assessed 17 studies and found that internet-delivered cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) was “more effective than face-to-face CBT at reducing depression symptom severity.” CBT is a type of therapy that aims to help people identify unhelpful, automatic thoughts and replace them with more accurate thoughts. With time, individuals can often learn how to shift their unhelpful behaviors by changing their thoughts.


Ambition can guide the path to personal and professional success, leading individuals toward their passions and desires. This journey may involve balancing personal and professional goals, pursuing a dream job, or implementing practical strategies like goal setting and regular self-reflection. 

If you’re interested in re-igniting your sense of ambition or finding your calling, it may help to speak with a therapist, whether in person or online. A therapist may be able to help you renew your sense of ambition and forge a path forward that aligns with your goals. Take the first step toward greater ambition and reach out to BetterHelp today.

Explore your drive and ambition in therapy
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