What does ambition mean? Ambition is a quality that can motivate an individual and drive their actions toward a particular goal. It can help a person push themselves to engage in hard work and take risks to reap specific rewards. Having a driving ambition can be a powerful motivator for achieving success.
Read on to understand what characterizes ambition, how to tell the difference between healthy and potentially unhealthy levels of this trait, and strategies for balancing it in your life.
What Is Ambition?
Ambition, from the Latin ambition, is defined as “a strong desire to achieve a particular end.” It can also refer to “an ardent desire for rank, fame, or power”— which hints at how varied this quality can be in real life. Ambition can be the driving force behind the choices you make, pushing you to realize your goals. However, a person’s goals and the role ambition plays in their life can vary widely.
For instance, two artists might both have strong ambition to fulfil their goals. However, one artist’s primary goal might be to inspire others, so they focus their artistic ambition on getting their art displayed in free, public places. The other’s first ambition might be to seek fame, driving them to focus on networking and publicity. In both cases, ambition is what pushes them toward success — however they might define it.
The Potential Benefits Of Ambition
Ambition can have a positive impact on an individual’s life and even on their community. Whether you’re interested in starting your own business, pursuing a sport or art, learning French, gaining power in the business world, or fighting for equal rights, a healthy sense of ambition can be your starting point.
Potential benefits of ambition can include:
A Sense Of Purpose
When you have a clear goal, you may be more focused on it and more motivated to work towards it. Ambition can help you prioritize your actions and make decisions that bring you closer to your goal.
For example, say you want to be a successful actress. Ambition makes that goal more than just a dream. While a strong sense of ambition won’t magically give you talent, it can drive you to learn how to act and start signing up for auditions.
Ambition can also strengthen your beliefs and give you the energy to persist through obstacles. When you are ambitious, you might be more likely to take calculated risks and continue to pursue your goals, even when the path is unclear. That kind of resilience and determination can be critical for success.
Ambition can potentially foster personal growth and self-discovery. You often learn more about yourself and your capabilities when you challenge yourself and push past your comfort zone. This kind of growth can allow you to develop new skills and get creative, seeking out new ways to be successful.
A Positive Impact On Society
Finally, ambition can inspire people to make a positive impact on the world, whether through philanthropy, activism, or other forms of service. It can give someone the persistence they may need to affect meaningful change and provide examples of real success.
The Possible Dark Side Of Ambition
While ambition has many potential benefits, when left unchecked, it can also lead to negative outcomes. Too much ambition can lead to stress, burnout, and debilitating perfectionism. In extreme cases, it may also lead to unethical behavior and thoughts, such as a feeling of hatred toward other candidates at a job interview.
Again, imagine your life goal is to become a very successful actress. Too much fierce ambition could potentially lead you to unhealthy habits or a negative self-image. On the other hand, if you lacked ambition, you might never take the initiative to start acting. It’s all about finding the right balance — caring for your own wellness while still striving for success.
Tips For Cultivating A Healthy Sense Of Ambition
To help you cultivate a healthy balance of ambition and self-care, consider the following tips:
Set Realistic Goals
Identifying what you want to achieve is the first step in working toward any goal. Using the SMART goals framework may be helpful in this process. It may also help to consider the words you use in defining your goals — for example, becoming a “better” skater is a realistic goal, while being the “best” skater demands an unrealistic sense of progress. It’s also okay if your goals are abstract. You might not be able to become a professional historian this week, but you can achieve your goal of learning more about Ancient Rome.
Celebrate Your Progress
As you go, you can celebrate small wins along the way and acknowledge the hard work you’ve put in. This strategy may help you combat perfectionism or a “never-enough” mindset, which can lead to negative thought patterns and burnout.
Taking care of your physical and emotional well-being as you work toward your goal can also help you avoid burnout. This might look like making time for activities that bring you joy, help you feel relaxed, or benefit your overall health, such as exercising, meditating, or spending time with loved ones.
Life can be unpredictable, and sometimes things don't go as planned. Being open to adjusting your goals, timeline, and/or approach can help you achieve your aspirations and get around roadblocks.
How Therapy Can Help
If you feel like your sense of ambition may be causing you problems in life, meeting with a therapist is another way to address it.
For instance, someone with excessive ambition that’s causing them stress might work with a therapist to uncover where their harmful drive originated. Someone who has trouble finding the ambition to achieve their goals can consult with a therapist to understand why — and whether it’s something they want help improving.
Some people prefer engaging in therapy online instead of in person, since virtual therapy is often more cost-effective than traditional methods. Research suggests that both formats can offer similar benefits in most cases, which means you can choose the one that’s most helpful for you. If you’re interested in online therapy, a virtual therapy service like BetterHelp is an option to consider. You can get matched with a licensed therapist to meet via phone, video call, and/or in-app messaging to address the challenges you may be facing.
What is the true meaning of ambition?
Ambition, from the Latin “ambitiōn” or the Latin word “ambire,” is defined as “a strong desire to achieve a particular end.” It’s the sense that compels a person to work hard to reach a certain goal or aspiration. Ambitions can be healthy or unhealthy. Unhealthy ambition could refer to a situation in which a person has an inordinate desire to strive to achieve their goal at all costs—regardless of harm to self or others—or one in which their core motivation is immoral or otherwise distorted.
What is an example of ambition?
Examples of ambition can vary widely from person to person, as each individual has their own set of goals and aspirations. One example of ambition could be a person who is deeply motivated to become a doctor because they want to help people. This sense of great ambition could fuel them as they make the effort to study, take exams, gain experience, and eventually go to work each day, even in the face of obstacles or challenges.
What is ambition in human life?
Ambition is the sense of motivation that helps an individual work toward their goals or desired accomplishments. People can have ambition for a wide variety of different aspirations, from career goals and creative dreams to wealth targets and interpersonal aims.
Why is ambition so powerful?
Ambition is powerful because it can keep a person’s motivation up until they reach the attainment and recognition stage of their goal. Despite obstacles, they can continue on until they honor their dream and find meaning in it if they have a sense of personal ambition and motivation.
Is ambition good or bad?
Ambition isn’t inherently good or bad, because it depends on the specific circumstances. A situation where someone’s ambition drives them to continue in the relentless pursuit of their goal even when it causes harm to themselves or others is an example of unhealthy ambition.
Is ambition good or not?
Ambition can be healthy or unhealthy depending on how it affects the individual and those around them. If you’re concerned about your ambition and how it may be affecting you or others, seeking to explore this topic with a therapist could be helpful.
What causes ambition?
A person’s sense of ambition can result from a combination of factors. The existence of certain personality traits seems to play a role, such as conscientiousness and extraversion. Upbringing and environment may as well. For example, a person whose parents were both doctors may have strong career ambitions instilled in them from a young age.
What does the Bible say about ambition?
The Bible warns of excessive ambition that causes harm to the self or others in Luke 9:25: “For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?”
What is a good example of ambitiousness?
An ambitious person is someone who decides to use their ability and efforts to achieve a specific goal or set of goals. An example of an ambitious person is one who decides to train to be a teacher because they want to help children learn. This driving ambition can help them stay on course even when their training or job gets difficult.
How do I know if I lack ambition?
If you lack ambition, you might feel like you don’t have a direction in life. Or, you might be content with exactly the way your life is and not have the desire to change it or achieve anything more. A lack of ambition isn’t necessarily a negative thing, as each individual wants something different out of their life. That said, if you’re concerned about your ambition levels and you’re looking for a change, speaking with a therapist may help.
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