Ambition is defined as the desire and determination to achieve success. The definition of “success” may vary from person to person and culture to culture, but the message remains the same: it’s important to have goals and the determination to complete them.
The Truth about Ambition
We all sometimes lack ambition. Even the most successful people in the world experience periods of failure and doubt. But they eventually succeed because their ambition reemerges, even in the wake of failure, rejection, and disappointment. Although it can be easy to fall into the trap of defeat when you encounter setbacks, ambition is not about never failing, it’s about getting up when you fall.
Ambition is not an inborn trait. It can be learned and cultivated, the same as any other positive trait. A lack of ambition can certainly be overcome. The possible irony, though, is that overcoming a lack of ambition requires a certain amount of ambition itself. After all, you’re creating a goal with the determination to follow through and achieve that goal. Happily, seeking out ways to improve your ambition is a step in the right direction!
27 Ways to Help Overcome a Lack of Ambition
In addition to resolving underlying issues, there are some steps you can take toward improving your ambition, or creating ambition where there previously wasn’t any. These steps may be completed on your own, or under the guidance of your mental health provider.
Find a Mentor.
Finding someone to look up to whose success closely matches what you hope to achieve can help you find the drive to keep chasing your goals.
Make Your Goals Visible.
Whether it’s a Pinterest board, index cards, or a whiteboard, create some form of visual representation of your goals so you can see exactly what it is you’re working toward.
Staying active improves confidence, mental acuity, and physical health-all things that can help you stay sharp as you work toward your goals. Find an activity you really love and stick with it.
Give Success a Try.
f you’re feeling short on motivation, try accomplishing some of the steps you need to take to succeed. If you hope to secure a position writing for a major publication, visit your favorite coffee shop and spend the day writing. If you hope to have a family, ask to babysit for a friend.
Build Up Support.
If all you see around you are people who are not pursuing their goals, you’re unlikely to pursue your goals either. Try to find friends who are also working toward their goals.
Practice an “Abundance Mindset.”
Practice cultivating the mindset of abundance. See a failed relationship as just that: a single failed relationship. See a setback at your work as what it is: one setback. An abundance mindset believes there are always more to be had and always the possibility for improvement.
Personality and aptitude tests can offer a lot of insight into yourself-your motivations, your drives, and your pitfalls. Knowing yourself well can help you kickstart the desire to move forward when you’re in the midst of low motivation.
Use Envy Well.
Instead of getting stuck in the mire of envy, allow it to fuel you. If you envy your friend’s recent cruise, start saving to go on your own. If you envy your sibling’s ability to purchase their dream home, sit down and determine what you need to get yours.
Cultivate Your Talents.
Everyone has something they’re good at. Even if your talents don’t immediately seem impressive (“Who cares if I can juggle?”), there’s likely to be some grain of usefulness or joy in your abilities.
Find a Need.
If you’re struggling to find motivation, look outward at how you can improve the lives of the people around you.
Make Your Own Meaning.
Before you can truly and effectively chase success, you need to determine what exactly that means to you. Some people measure success by the money they make, while others measure success by the amount of time they’re able to devote to their loved ones or hobbies.
Recall Your Triumphs.
Keep your triumphant moments close by for the days you feel you’ve lost all motivation. Recalling your successes can help you leave a funk behind and move forward in working toward your goals.
Look Up to Someone.
Unlike a mentor, who is personally involved in your life, find someone whose successes you can admire from a distance. This could be someone who shares a similar background-someone who left poverty behind, for instance-or someone who shares your goals-such as someone who has worked their way to the top of their field in academia.
Leave Negative Self-Talk Behind.
Negative self-talk may seem like merely speaking to yourself realistically, but it serves no function other than tearing yourself down. Instead of using negative speech when speaking to or of yourself, use clear and objective language. For instance, you can change “You’re no good at anything!” to “You struggled at work today, and that’s okay. You’ll try again tomorrow.”
Respect the Process.
Success is a process, not a destination. There will always be another obstacle and another hill, so try to enjoy the process as it happens.
Create a To-Do List.
Writing down everything you need to accomplish in the next day or the next week can help you free up some much-needed headspace, and can lend a sense of accomplishment to your day each time you get to check off another task.
Imagine what your life will look like once your goals are realized. Although you should not live in fantasy, occasionally indulging in the imagined fruition of all of your hard work can be healthy and motivating.
Use Your Passions.
Find things you’re passionate about, and see how they can help you work toward your goals. If you’re passionate about painting, but yearn for a career as a teacher, you can combine the two and work toward an art teaching degree. If you’re passionate about cooking, and hope to work in corporate law, you can use cooking as a means of decompressing and relaxing when your workload has grown too great.
Seek Out Motivation
Motivation won’t always come to you-sometimes, you have to chase it. If you don’t feel like getting up in the morning, reward yourself with a trip to your favorite coffee shop. If you don’t want to complete the paper for your class, consider all the stress-free time you’ll have once the paper is finished.
Leave Your Comfort Zone.
Comfort zones might feel safe, but they can also stagnate growth. Instead of living in your comfort zone, push yourself to adopt new challenges and try new things. The worst you can do is fail.
Commit to Learning.
Learning is not something you leave behind after your diploma or degree. Every single day, spend some time learning something new. Read the paper while eating your breakfast, listen to a podcast on your commute to work, or even just ask a friend or coworker to tell you something new.
Just Take One Step.
Put one foot in front of the other in pursuit of your goals. It doesn’t always have to be a giant step, such as moving across the country. It can be merely researching the cost of that move. Remember: planning is part of the work.
Believe in Yourself.
You can do hard things! You can change your life. Even when circumstances have given you a rough run, believe you are bigger than your background.
Ask for Help.
When it becomes too much-you’re overworked, or the demands on your time are too much to handle-ask for help! Bring in a trusted friend, a family member, or a coworker, and lighten your load. There’s no shame in teamwork.
Do Your Research.
Blindly following your dreams can be dangerous. If you move across the country to pursue acting, only to find that you would have to work three jobs (jobs you do not have) to afford a single studio apartment, you’re putting yourself at risk. Instead, identify what steps you need to take to move toward your goals, and take the necessary time to achieve them.
Evaluate What Is Important to You.
Sometimes goals shift and needs change. Perhaps your relationship is more important to you than the career you’ve always imagined. Perhaps your career is more important than the family you wanted. Give yourself the space to change your plans as you go along. Few things kill motivation as effectively as rigidity.
You’ll falter. You’ll lose hope. But keep working on yourself! You’re the person who will be with you every step of the way, so make sure you’re cultivating traits and behaviors that you like and can be proud of. Watching yourself become the person you’ve always dreamed of is a powerful motivator.
Eleanor Roosevelt once said that “Happiness is not a goal; it is a byproduct.” As humans, we often believe that when we buy a house, or fall in love, or receive that well-deserved promotion at work, we will be truly happy. But why do we infer that happiness is only attainable through milestone events or achievements?
The reality of this tendency is that it may not be happiness that we are seeking and experiencing on a daily basis but instead satisfaction. Perhaps we live our day-to-day lives pursuing the things that make us happy, which then contributes to our overall sense of satisfaction.
If you look up happiness and satisfaction in a dictionary, the two definitions are quite similar. Both use words such as “joy” and “contentment,” describing a pleasant and delighted emotion. But why is it then that people often say, “Do what makes you happy” but never think to advise “Pursue what satisfies you”? It may have a different ring to it, but it is a good indicator of a different sense of contentment.
We reached out to cognitive behavioral therapist and clinical psychologist Jennifer Guttman, Psy.D., to better distinguish happiness and satisfaction.
The difference between happiness and satisfaction.
Research shows that the most frequent uses of the word happiness revolve around describing someone’s personality, as in being characterized as a happy person. It is also used in association with materialism and experientialism, conveying that when you purchase or experience something, you may experience happiness. Although definitions are vague and vary, happiness ultimately seeks to portray a moment of temporary bliss.
“Happiness is fleeting,” Guttman explains. “Happiness is a feeling someone gets when they experience something out of the ordinary that brings them joy. With that feeling, a neurotransmitter, dopamine, is released, which gives us an elevated mood state. However, this elevated mood state is not sustainable because it’s reliant on the release of this neurotransmitter.”
Satisfaction, on the other hand, is an enduring feeling experienced for a longer period of time, as a result of the collection of life events and feelings you’ve experienced. Guttman describes satisfaction as a more balanced, sustainable state because it’s not neurotransmitter-dependent the way happiness is.
Or as Daniel Kahneman, Ph.D., Nobel Prize winner and psychologist, explained in his TED Talk, we experience happiness in our lives as well as happiness with our lives. This latter principle is akin to the concept of satisfaction, which we experience more frequently and thus influences our attitudes and behaviors. Satisfaction is a better indicator of how content we feel toward our lives overall and may contribute to more mindful decisions that bring our lives meaning.
For example, you come home from a long day at work and are greeted by a package at your front door of a new pair of shoes that you had ordered a few days prior. At the moment of opening that package, you might experience excitement and happiness. The moment then passes, and you are onto your next activity. However, each day you wear those shoes, you are reminded of your purchase and are satisfied. Therefore, feeling satisfied has a longer-lasting impact on people’s moods, whereas experiencing happiness is an instantaneous, temporary sensation.
Which is more important?
Guttman describes satisfaction as a more long-term and tangible solution than happiness. “When people think ‘happy’ as joy or effervescence is attainable, it creates cognitive dissonance when that feeling is not sustainable,” she explains.
That said, happiness and satisfaction are intertwined, as “most people experience satisfaction on an ongoing basis, interspersed with moments of happiness,” Guttman explains. “They are both attainable, but satisfaction is more sustainable.”
“People become more satisfied by becoming more self-confident, self-reliant, by developing a strong sense of self, by developing a sense of their effectiveness in the world, and by believing in their inherent lovability,” Guttman says.
To strengthen your sense of self, she recommends finishing tasks (not just starting them), making decisions for yourself, facing fears, and avoiding people-pleasing behaviors. Facing your fears, for example, may not make you happy—but it sure is satisfying.
2. Write down at least one good thing that you experience each day.
As the saying goes: Every day may not be good, but there is something good in every day. Especially in today’s current climate, you may feel that your daily routine has become redundant and complacent. However, it is all about where you channel your energy and focus. Whether you meet an old friend for lunch or go for a relaxing bike ride, write it down. Those moments will turn into memories and will leave you feelingmore grateful and optimistic in the long run, as you are able to go back and read them. The benefits of gratitude are all about creating a sense of lifelong satisfaction, as opposed to simply seeking moments of exuberant happiness.
3. Put yourself out there.
Some research suggests extroversion is associated with more life satisfaction and overall well-being. Despite this pandemic, it is easier than ever to reach out to someone and make a new friend. From becoming a pen pal with a patient in a nursing home to just messaging an old friend you’ve lost touch with, you may rekindle or create new friendships that could enhance your interpersonal skills and revitalize your daily routine.
The bottom line.
Making happiness your destination may cause you to miss out on this exciting journey of life, a journey that has many twists and turns, with new opportunities appearing each day. Recognizing what makes you feel satisfied, on the other hand, can contribute to a more positive attitude and outlook on life while feeling more fulfilled. By living through this lens, we can experience not just moments of happiness but a lifestyle that is enduringly satisfying.
1. Consider the mistakes as part of the learning process
No one likes to make mistakes, but we need to learn that only when we make mistakes we realize what is not working and what can be changed or be done better. We should always keep in mind that we are not what we do, we are much more than that. Our actions, what we do, is the self-efficacy which can be increased with the practice; our essence, who we are, our self-esteem, is separated from everything and do not depend on our performance.
2. Do not compare yourself to others
Comparing yourself to others is never constructive. Focusing on what others do better than us is a trap that no one is immune and is very insidious because it leads to focus on what we do or do not possess losing sight of the many gifts that are already present in our lives. Continuing to bring our attention to others makes us take everything for granted. The comparison leads us to measure ourselves using inappropriate parameters, risking to live someone’s life and desiring things we don’t really want. When it happens to envy someone ask yourself: “I really want that thing, that result, that goal?” And if you do not want it, then why are envious? Are we convinced that this person will appear in the eyes of others better? But in the eyes of whom? And that’s really so important?
3. Be loyal to your values even if it means being unpopular
Key values are those that belong to our soul, do not change over time and lead us in our lives. Be true to your values, even if it means going against and be unpopular. It is not easy, you will lose people along the way, but you won’t lose yourself and this is the only thing that matters. Being faithful to your values means loving yourself.
4. See the past as an adventure
Life is an adventure: every day we have the opportunity to discover something new and wonderful to experience. The past is what allowed you to get to this moment, including errors. Do not condemn your past, even if you suffer, it made you the person you are today.
5. Do not underestimate your talents
All of us have unique talents that make us special, but very often we underestimate them or we are not even aware of them. What makes you feel most alive? What gives you more excitement, what you dream to be, do, have, give? What were your dreams, your passions as a child? What makes your heart beat? What are
your favorite topics? What are your interests? What would you do even if your are not paid for? What makes you feel so absorbed that you lose track of the time passing? What are your features, your peculiarity? It’s just by looking within yourself that you can discover your talents and make them available to the world.
6. Surround yourself with people that inspire you
We are social animals and we need to interact and share experiences with others. Surround yourself with people who want the best for you and inspire you to be the best version of yourself.
7. Express your anger creatively
Anger is an important emotion, but many times we try to repress or deny it, hurting ourselves. It’s important to express anger and there are many different ways to do that. Playing sports, spending time in nature, writing, screaming (in the car or with a cushion for example): find ways to express anger, not hold it in!
8. Celebrate every success
Celebrate every success, even when it seems insignificant, it is important to keep motivation high. Celebrate the wonderful person you are, whatever you do or whatever result you get. Just because you’ve decided to do something new and try to be happy, you deserve all the possible respect.