Ambition is a strong desire or determination to reach a specific goal or achieve success. It is a positive personality trait characterized by an intense drive that motivates individuals to accomplish an objective.
What Is Ambition?
Ambition refers to a passionate desire to achieve distinction, honor, power, or a participle object. It works like an inspiration that makes us try to achieve our life goals. The definition varies according to people’s different thoughts, personal beliefs, and perceptions. The term ‘ambition’ is derived from the Latin word ‘ambitio’ and ‘ambire’ which means ‘to go around’.
It is also considered a human personality trait that is closely associated with our emotions, desires, and feelings. It works like an energy that is extremely essential to chase after an objective. Ambition helps a person to effectively overcome difficult challenges and utilize strategies to grow in personal, social, and professional fields.
According to a 2012 research paper 1 Judge, T. A., & Kammeyer-Mueller, J. D. (2012). On the value of aiming high: The causes and consequences of ambition. Journal of Applied Psychology, 97(4), 758-775. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0028084 , “ambition is the persistent and generalized striving for success, attainment, and accomplishment.” The study explained that aspiration involves generality, persistence, and a striving for position and wealth rather than for overall well-being and socio-economic acceptance. Though it includes goal setting, it is not similar to pure conscientiousness or the basic need to achieve success. Ambitious people are more likely to focus on developing their competence rather than only obtaining material rewards.
Ambition is closely related to cultivating a desire for new realizations and transformations, and leaving comfort zones. It is mostly considered a positive human characteristic. A 2012 research paper 2 Bruhn, J. G., & Lowrey, J. (2012). The good and bad about greed: How the manifestations of greed can be used to improve organizational and individual behavior and performance. Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, 64(2), 136–150. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0029355 suggests that when it becomes excessive, it can make a person greedy, that’s why these two concepts of ambition and greed are often confused in many instances. But when a person utilizes his ambitious nature in an intelligent way, it can be the most important ingredient of success.
In psychology, ambitious nature is not considered as good or bad, because the impact or consequences are completely dependent on the amount of ambition and how people utilize it. Another characteristic of ambitious people is that they never give up despite numerous challenges and obstacles in their way to success.
When a person’s ambition is related to their professional success, they should work for small-term goals as even the smallest achievements can motivate them to perform better. Being ambitious comes with a broad range of personal and professional benefits, but pulling someone down to achieve desired outcomes is not a healthy example of ambition.
Why Ambition Matters
Being ambitious is extremely important to achieve success, growth, and overall well-being. It is closely interlinked with the strong desire for change that often leads to greater and positive transformation. Though it has some negative impacts when used in the wrong way, ambition is the utmost important thing that drives people to accomplish great things.
“Ambition can be a positive force for society as well as the individual when personal goals are aligned with what is best for society,” according to a 2009 study. It explained that ambition provides more benefits for a society when the actions to achieve success are also related to the general good for the society rather than only individual gain. It not only offers immense opportunities but also helps one to identify flaws, rectify them, and implement solutions for different types of problems.
The following are some of the positive aspects of being ambitious:
- It helps one to take charge of their own future and not depend on others regarding their success.
- It provides people a clear idea about what they are capable of achieving and what they need to do to reach their life goals.
- It can also help people to grow and develop in their personal lives.
- It promotes healthy self-esteem and a higher capability of visualization of the future.
- It makes an individual courageous, enthusiastic, and fearless to face any kind of difficulty.
- It helps people to look over the bigger picture and implement useful strategies.
Ambition And Greed
These two terms ‘ambition’ and ‘greed’ are often confused by some people, but they are not similar in many aspects. While ambition is a strong desire to achieve success, greed can be defined as the will to have more than what one can handle. In simple words, greed makes a person extremely dissatisfied 3 Zhu, Y., Sun, X., Liu, S., & Xue, G. (2019). Is Greed a Double-Edged Sword? The Roles of the Need for Social Status and Perceived Distributive Justice in the Relationship Between Greed and Job Performance. Frontiers in psychology, 10, 2021. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.02021 about their accomplishments, while ambition allows self-satisfaction to a certain level. Studies 4 Seuntjens, T. G., Zeelenberg, M., van de Ven, N., & Breugelmans, S. M. (2015). Dispositional greed. Journal of personality and social psychology, 108(6), 917–933. https://doi.org/10.1037/pspp0000031 have defined greed as a significant motive that includes two different types of impacts, such as productive and destructive. Greed can be seen as productive only when it is a source of ambition, but it can be extremely destructive also when sabotaging social relationships.
Greedy people always want to achieve more than they already have, which later leads to extreme dissatisfaction. According to psychologists, people should strictly avoid greed as it prevents one from feeling happy. Ambition is a personality trait with the help of which people achieve success in an ethical way, but greedy people are more likely to get their desired outcome unethically which can even have severe effects on others. Greedy personalities tend to come up with harmful ideas to knock down their peers and even close ones for personal gain. Greed not only reduces one’s capabilities but also brings negative behavioral changes in a person.
Types Of Ambition
The type of ambitions largely depends on the actions an individual takes to reach their goals. Though the types and forms vary from person to person, there are two most significant types that can be commonly observed, such as:
1. Intrinsic Ambition
When a person focuses more on goals that they consider extremely important to their life, it is called intrinsic ambition. A 2019 research 5 Martela, F., Bradshaw, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (2019). Expanding the Map of Intrinsic and Extrinsic Aspirations Using Network Analysis and Multidimensional Scaling: Examining Four New Aspirations. Frontiers in psychology, 10, 2174. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.02174 says that intrinsic aspiration enhances various wellness-related outcomes. This kind of aspiration motivates a person to create or develop something that they want to. Additionally, their success is completely dependent on their own capability.
2. Extrinsic Ambition
When a person is more interested in gaining materialistic rewards, extrinsic achievements, such as money, fame, awards, or recognition. Their success is associated with their desire for materialistic rewards.
Why Some People Are More Ambitious
There are several reasons why some people are more ambitious than others. The reasons are mostly based on different types of aspects and personality traits, such as:
People who have deep-seated insecurity are more likely to be extremely ambitious. Insecurity causes a person extreme psychological pressure that can lead to him/her either withdrawing or becoming ambitious in an effort to reach their desired goals.
2. Birth order
It also depends on the birth order a person has. In families, the youngest child is always compared to the older one regarding their skills and capabilities. This can have two impacts – either the youngest one considers himself/herself incapable or he/she becomes very ambitious to do better than his/her siblings. It happens mostly because of the competition the youngest one experiences with his/her sibling while growing up.
3. Desire to prove others wrong
People who experience a lot of rejection, disapproval, and humiliation, tend to become more ambitious to prove others wrong who made them feel negative emotions. When others consider them as ‘weak’, ‘incapable’, or ‘demotivated’, it is enough for them to gain courage and prove themselves in front of others.
People who believe in their own capabilities and are confident that they will definitely achieve success are more likely to be ambitious. The feeling of being worthy makes a person ambitious.
Characteristics Of An Ambitious Person
According to researchers 6 Barsukova, O. (2016). (PDF) Psychological characteristics of ambitious person. ResearchGate. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/302057964_Psychological_characteristics_of_ambitious_person , ambitious people share a few common personality traits. The following are some common groups of psychological characteristics of ambitious personalities:
- Healthy self-esteem and self-attitude
- Self-satisfaction to a certain extent
- Sensitivity to criticism
- Willingness to move to another city or country
- Desire to get a higher position or career advancement
- Willingness to change work
- Willingness to overwork to reach a specific goal
- Success in life
- Top positions in social and professional fields
- Recognition by others
- Consistent achievement
- Emotional stability
- Willingness to take risks or face difficulties
- Good time management skill
- Creative and critical thinking abilities
- Flexible mindset
- Willingness to solve complex problems
- Comparing and competitive nature
- Dominant nature
- Willingness to challenge competitors
- Strong desire for self-development
- Tendency to strive to be better than others
- Low daydreaming abilities
- Motivational tension
- High achievement motivation
- Strive to achieve more than parents, siblings, friends
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How To Be Ambitious
Ambition is extremely essential for achieving success in life as most of the worthwhile goals require determination and hard work to achieve. Here are some beneficial tips and tricks that can help you become ambitious:
1. Surround yourself with ambitious people
Spend time with people who have specific goals in their life. This will make you feel more motivated to perform better. Try to know what habits, inspirations, or thought processes help those people to succeed in life.
2. Never hesitate to take risks
Taking risks is one of the most important parts of becoming ambitious. One needs to be comfortable with experiencing difficulties to achieve success in personal and professional life. To become ambitious, one needs to give oneself enough opportunities to explore many possibilities.
3. Compete with yourself
In the process of becoming more ambitious, competing with oneself is more beneficial than competing with others. Don’t focus on the achievements of others, rather try to improve your own performance. Most ambitious people tend to consider themselves as their own competitors.
4. Set goals
You can’t achieve success unless you properly set your life goals. Try to continuously set your goals, so that when you reach one you can start preparing for the new ones. Constant goal-setting immensely helps a person to improve.
5. Exercise your imagination
Imagination helps one to obtain a more positive state of mind. Try to think about your future possibilities and how you can work hard to achieve them. Imagination is also considered an important tool to create goals.
Read More About Imagination Here
Being ambitious is very important for our personal and professional growth. People with high ambition are more likely to have greater insight and strength to improve their capabilities. Find new ways to stay motivated and reflect on your previous achievements to become more ambitious. One should compete with oneself and try to improve their own capabilities in order to be ambitious and utilize their ambition in a beneficial way.
Ambition At A Glance
- Ambition is a strong desire or determination to reach a specific goal or achieve success.
- It provides more benefits for a society when the actions to achieve success are taken for the general good rather than only individual gain.
- It is a personality trait that helps people achieve success in an ethical way, but greed makes people reach their desired goals unethically.
- There are two types of ambitions, namely – Intrinsic and Extrinsic ambition.
- Some people are more ambitious than others due to their insecurities, birth order, self-confidence, and desire to prove themselves worthy.
- Taking risks, competing with oneself, setting constant goals can help people to be more ambitious.
- 1Judge, T. A., & Kammeyer-Mueller, J. D. (2012). On the value of aiming high: The causes and consequences of ambition. Journal of Applied Psychology, 97(4), 758-775. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0028084
- 2Bruhn, J. G., & Lowrey, J. (2012). The good and bad about greed: How the manifestations of greed can be used to improve organizational and individual behavior and performance. Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, 64(2), 136–150. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0029355
- 3Zhu, Y., Sun, X., Liu, S., & Xue, G. (2019). Is Greed a Double-Edged Sword? The Roles of the Need for Social Status and Perceived Distributive Justice in the Relationship Between Greed and Job Performance. Frontiers in psychology, 10, 2021. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.02021
- 4Seuntjens, T. G., Zeelenberg, M., van de Ven, N., & Breugelmans, S. M. (2015). Dispositional greed. Journal of personality and social psychology, 108(6), 917–933. https://doi.org/10.1037/pspp0000031
- 5Martela, F., Bradshaw, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (2019). Expanding the Map of Intrinsic and Extrinsic Aspirations Using Network Analysis and Multidimensional Scaling: Examining Four New Aspirations. Frontiers in psychology, 10, 2174. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.02174
- 6Barsukova, O. (2016). (PDF) Psychological characteristics of ambitious person. ResearchGate. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/302057964_Psychological_characteristics_of_ambitious_person