What Ambition Is And How To Maintain A Healthy Sense Of It

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 in order to reap specific rewards. 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 is defined as “a desire to achieve a particular end”, but it can also refer to “an ardent desire for rank, fame, or power”—which hints at how varied manifestations of this quality can be. Ambition can be the driving force behind the choices you make, pushing you to achieve your goals. However, a person’s goals and the way ambition plays out in their lives can vary widely.

For instance, two artists may both have strong ambitions and be very motivated to achieve their goals. However, one’s primary goal might be to inspire others, so they focus on getting their art displayed in free, public places. The other might be driven primarily by a desire to achieve wealth or fame, driving them to focus on networking and publicity so they can get a place in well-known galleries or museums. Regardless of the specifics, ambition can help a person work toward their greatest aspirations.

The Potential Benefits Of Ambition

A healthy sense of ambition can have a positive impact on an individual’s life and even on their community. Potential benefits of ambition can include the following.

A Sense Of Purpose

When you have a clear goal, you may be more focused on and motivated to work towards it. Ambition may help you prioritize your actions and make decisions that bring you closer to your goal.


Ambition can also give you the energy you may need to persist when you encounter 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 or arduous. This kind of resilience and determination could be critical for success, as they can keep you on track even when times get tough.

Personal Growth

Ambition can potentially foster personal growth and self-discovery. You often learn more about yourself and your capabilities when you challenge yourself and push beyond your comfort zone. This kind of growth can allow you to develop new skills and reach new levels of success, which might fuel your ambition further and equip you to achieve additional goals in the future.

Life Achievements

Ambition can help you get where you want to be in life. If your aim is to hit certain career, financial, relational, or creative milestones, for example, a healthy dose of this quality may help you get there.

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 effect meaningful change to benefit the lives of those around them.

The Possible Dark Side Of Ambition

While ambition has the potential to bring many benefits, excessive or unchecked levels of this trait can 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 such as cutthroat competition, the manipulation of others, or breaking the law. That’s why it’s generally ideal to look for a healthy balance between striving for success and taking care of yourself and others.

Tips For Cultivating A Healthy Sense Of Ambition

To help yourself find a middle ground between not having enough ambition to achieve your goals and having so much that you burn yourself out, consider the following tips for cultivating a healthy sense of it:

  • Set realistic goals. Identifying what you want to achieve is the first step in working toward almost any goal. Ensuring your goals are realistic can help you avoid pushing yourself past your limits as you work toward them. Using the SMART goals framework may be helpful in this process.

  • Celebrate your progress. As you go, you might celebrate small wins along the way and acknowledge the hard work and effort you’re putting forth. This strategy may help you combat perfectionism or a “never-enough” mindset, which can lead to negative thought patterns and burnout.

  • Prioritize self-care. 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.

  • Stay adaptable. Life can be unpredictable, and sometimes things don’t go as planned. Being open to adjusting your goals, timeline, and/or approach if necessary can help you achieve your aspirations in the face of obstacles and not get too discouraged when things don’t go as you envisioned.

Source: betterhelp.com ~ Image: Canva Pro

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