The Ambitious Woman: 7 Habits Successful Women Have in Common

By: Kelly Spears

Updated August 28, 2020

Medically Reviewed By: Dawn Brown

Ambitious women are everywhere. Their drive to achieve isn't merely a product of happenstance or good fortune. Ambition requires a combination of unwavering tenacity, hard work, and dedication, and while it may seem like ambitious women have an endless supply of these qualities, being a go-getter often comes with its very own pitfalls.

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Later, we'll take a close look at the drawbacks and difficulties ambitious women face, but first, let's dive into the meaning of ambition and success, along with common characteristics ambitious women share, and the tried-and-true daily habits these women implement to cultivate success.

Defining Ambition And Success

Merriam-Webster defines ambition as "an ardent desire for rank, fame, or power" and success as "the attainment of wealth, favor, or eminence." While these definitions may describe some ambitious, successful people, women are constantly redefining what it means to be truly ambitious and successful, as women tend to define these terms based on their personal values, beliefs, and circumstances.

In a 2018 article published by Thrive Global, author Sally Helgesen shared that women are reluctant to base their success on income, position, or winning. "Women define success based on what matters to them as individuals, rather than what their organizations assume people will most value," she explained.

It seems that men and women can be in the exact same environment and define success in completely different terms. In her 2010 book, The Female Vision: Women's Real Power at Work, Helgesen highlighted her findings from a survey she conducted, in which 818 male and female managers described what factors contributed to their level of satisfaction at work. The men shared that achieving top positions and earning high salaries were most important, while the women valued a pleasant working experience above salary and status.

As you can see, it's virtually impossible to encompass the full meaning of ambition and success in traditional dictionary definitions.

8 Common Characteristics Ambitious And Successful Women Share

As women, we often judge ourselves based on the accomplishments of others. There's no doubt that some women are innately driven, possessing what appears to be the perfect blend of perpetual motivation and the ability to achieve great things on very little sleep.

The truth is, we all have inherent qualities that, when nurtured, can help pave the way to our individual definitions of success. As Theodore Roosevelt once said, "Comparison is the thief of joy." It's much easier to enjoy and appreciate our own successes when we're not consumed by the fear of not living up to other people's standards.

Below is a list of characteristics successful women have in common. You'll likely notice that you possess some of them with little effort, while others may seem just out of reach. Simply becoming aware of these qualities and making an effort to cultivate them can lead to future success:


When you're passionate about what you're doing, it's much easier to find the drive and determination to carry on. While skills and experience may look great on a resume, they aren't likely to catapult you to the next level. Add passion, and sky's the limit!



Tapping into your inner assertiveness will help you build confidence and begin setting boundaries, which is essential to your future success. A great place to start is by learning to say no and becoming aware of how often you say, "I'm sorry." As women, we tend to ask for forgiveness when an apology isn't necessary.


Many people believe empathy is a weakness. In reality, it's one of our strongest God-given strengths. Empathy allows us to relate to others. Empathetic people are often highly intuitive, which can be a wonderful trait in any situation where interpersonal interaction is required.

The Ability To Embrace Imperfections

Dwelling on bad decisions and past mistakes zaps energy that could be better used elsewhere. No one gets it right 100% of the time, and expecting perfection almost always leads to disappointment and perceived failure.


Learning to believe in yourself is one of the most powerful factors in achieving success on your terms. Just be sure not to base your self-worth on your achievements.


Life will always throw us curveballs. Learning to adapt is one key to attaining success-and preserving sanity. Inflexibility causes stress, which can hinder success and lead to a host of physical and mental health problems.


It's impossible to achieve success without putting ourselves out there. This often requires stepping outside our comfort zones and even taking risks.


What do our successes really mean if we don't appreciate them and the drive it took to achieve them? Gratitude can make us more appreciative of the mentors and coworkers who help us reach our goals, resulting in a more pleasant work environment and positive attitude.

7 Habits Successful Women Have In Common

While the above-mentioned qualities will undoubtedly play a role in your ability to achieve success, your daily routine is equally important.

The 7 common habits of successful women are outlined below. If you're not currently implementing these practices, try starting with one or two that speak to you:

1. They Set Goals

Regularly establishing and working toward goals is vital for personal and professional development and success. When we don't know what we're working for, we tend to get stuck in a rut, spending our days feeling adrift and uninspired.

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When you set a goal, map out a plan outlining the steps it will take to reach it. Remember to be flexible, as some restructuring will likely be necessary along the way.

2. They Don't Procrastinate

As Benjamin Franklin once said, "Don't put off until tomorrow what you can do today." Reaching our goals requires hard work and dedication. Successful women map out a plan and push themselves to persevere without risking their overall health or well-being.

Set reasonable goals for yourself, and don't be afraid to ask for help when you need it.

3. They Surround Themselves with Ambitious People

While it's possible to achieve success on your own, it's much more attainable-and enjoyable-with a cohort of like-minded people.

Along with ambition, it's important to surround ourselves with people who have our best interest at heart, and those who will lift us up when we're feeling down, which happens to all of us from time to time.

4. They Invest in Themselves

Successful women value themselves and are willing to spend their time and money on resources, products, and experiences that make them feel their best and allow them to achieve great success.

If you've been itching to take a photography course, or you'd love to trade in your dated clothes for a fun, fresh wardrobe that reflects your style and personality, go for it! Money or time invested in yourself is never wasted.

5. They Love Their Lives Outside of Work

We can derive a lot of satisfaction from our work, but how we spend our downtime is the key to happiness and success.

Successful women lead full lives, spending time with family and friends, and enjoying creative time and other hobbies.

6. They Celebrate Their Achievements

It's difficult to maintain drive and determination if we never take the time to revel in our successes.

Successful women celebrate-and share-their achievements. They are motivated by their triumphs, and they never let failures determine their self-worth.

7. They Know Self-Care is Important

Highly successful women don't neglect their need for self-care. They know time for rest, relaxation, and rejuvenation is imperative to their success.


While reading a book or taking a nap may be one successful woman's idea of self-care, someone else may choose to spend the day at a spa or start each morning by meditating, practicing yoga, or writing a daily gratitude list. The possibilities are virtually endless.

The Drawbacks Of Being An Ambitious Woman

It may come as a surprise that many women despise the term "ambition." While interviewing women for her research on the role ambition plays in women's lives, New York-based psychiatrist Anna Fels found that women equated ambition with egotism and selfishness, and even manipulation and self-aggrandizement.

Women tend to downplay their achievements, not seeking the recognition they so rightfully deserve. As Fels points out, recognition is a basic human need that's necessary to develop any skill.

When we don't receive affirmation, our learning and performance can suffer. Just as ambition can lead to affirmation, recognition for a job well done can fuel ambition. By downplaying achievements and not seeking recognition, a woman's ambition may begin to waver.

Another negative effect of steadfast ambition is the tendency to relentlessly look for the next goal to conquer. This can lead to constant comparisons, a shift in priorities, and the inability to appreciate victories.


Finding Your Ambition Equilibrium

If you're struggling to find your innate ambition, or your ambitious nature is taking over your life, speaking with one of our online therapists could help. Finding and maintaining balance is key to contentment, happiness, and success. No matter what level of ambition you're currently experiencing, we can help you discover your ambition equilibrium.

"Ambition is enthusiasm with a purpose." - Frank Tyger

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27 Ways To Overcome Lack Of Ambition
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