Ambition refers to the desire to achieve success. When speaking about the concept of ambition, there are 2 common types that people typically refer to extrinsic and intrinsic. With extrinsic ambition, the goals and desires are more focused on external rewards. These can be material (money, a position at work, the ability to afford expensive things) or non-material (fame and notoriety). Meanwhile, when referring to intrinsic ambition, the goals come from an internal meaning that is individually important to the specific person setting them.
With extrinsic and intrinsic ambition, the satisfaction and validation derived from the pursuit or achievement of these goals come from different sources. Extrinsic ambition relies heavily on whether or not external rewards are obtained. Intrinsic does not rely on outside sources of validation but, instead, on the individual’s satisfaction with their efforts.
Furthermore, extrinsic and intrinsic ambition take different routes when referring to achieving and obtaining these goals and rewards. Typically, people with extrinsic ambition will focus on the paths to “success” taken by others before. They might tweak or individualize these pathways, but, ultimately, there is a formula to them. For example, someone might have the extrinsic ambition to become a doctor for the sake of notoriety and the money/security that this occupation provides. This person will, most likely, complete college/undergraduate, get into a medical school, complete a medical internship/residency, and then move into whatever specialized area of practice they wish.
Intrinsic ambition, and the means to which someone goes about achieving success related to this type of ambition, tends to result in people following whatever path “feels right.” Because the rewards are so individualized and personal to the individual, the pathway to achievement might look a lot different. Using the same example from above, someone might have the ambition to help others with medicine, but they might not take the traditional path to become a doctor. Let’s say that they start by doing something that does not require as much time, is less of a monetary investment, and can get them started right away, such as an x-ray technician. During this time, they might find that they want to continue their education and move in the direction of becoming a doctor. They might transfer to a job affiliated with a college or medical school and, therefore, makes access to education easier and more obtainable.
As to which one of these is the best, that is up to the individual. Some people do really well just following extrinsic ambition, while others do perfectly fine following intrinsic ambition. It might be best to have a healthy combination of both. When someone does not have the intrinsic ambition to move forward with achieving their goals, falling back on extrinsic ambition rewards might help. Likewise, having more intrinsic ambition at times could help someone “think outside the box” and not get as fixated on how things “should be done” to achieve their extrinsic ambition-related goals.