So, what exactly is ambition, and what motivates someone to be ambitious?
The definition of ambition is explained in a recent study conducted by Judge and Kammeyer-Muller (2012).
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According to the authors, ambition is defined as “the persistent and generalized striving for success, attainment, and accomplishment.” They also point out that ambition usually entails goal setting. It is, however, distinct from pure conscientiousness or the fundamental need to achieve. Individuals who are only motivated to achieve tend to prioritize developing skills and competence over pursuing material rewards. Ambition, on the other hand, is primarily concerned with obtaining money or prestige.
Ambition and aspirations are frequently confused, but it is critical to distinguish between the two. Aspirations involve striving for a specific goal, whereas ambition is a personality trait. Ambition is a pattern of behavior that manifests itself over time. When someone is ambitious, they constantly set new goals for themselves and work hard to achieve them.
Different attitudes toward ambition have emerged in society. As the authors point out:
“Historically, some writers have regarded ambition as a positive trait because it appears to lead to hard work and success. Others, on the other hand, have viewed ambition as a vice because its overemphasis on the pursuit of external wealth leads to an inadequate emphasis on internal fulfillment and happiness.”
The study put these theories to the test.
The Research's Findings
The authors drew on more than 60 years of data from the Terman life-cycles study. They were able to see the positive aspects of ambitions thanks to this data.
They discovered a number of underlying factors that contribute to ambition, including “conscientiousness, extraversion, low neuroticism, general mental ability, and parental occupational prestige.”
The authors also discovered that ambitious people received more education, landed more prestigious jobs, and earned more money than non-achievers. This was shown to result in a modest increase in life satisfaction and longevity.
Let's look at some more factors that contribute to an ambitious personality.
Birth Order Explains Why Some People Are Ambitious
The family's youngest child is frequently compared to his older, more skilled and proficient siblings. This can result in one of two outcomes: either the youngest child withdraws and believes he is incapable, or he becomes extremely ambitious. Early on, the competition he experiences with his siblings instills in him a desire to outperform everyone else who competes with him when he grows up.
Ambition Fueled by Ego
A person is likely to be ambitious if they have a large ego and are also brave. Their bravery will allow them to pursue lofty goals, and their ego will convince them that they are deserving of a better life. This combination will result in a high level of ambition.
Ambition and Uncertainty
When a person is insecure, he can become overly ambitious. Insecurity puts a person under extreme psychological pressure, which can lead to one of two outcomes: he becomes extremely ambitious in an attempt to change his life and eliminate his insecurities, or he withdraws and opts out of life. Most billionaires grew up in poverty, which resulted in severe financial insecurity.
Difficult Comparisons and Ambition
When a person is forced to compete with his peers, he may become extremely ambitious. For example, if a man who is relatively poor surrounds himself with wealthy friends, he may develop a desire to become extremely wealthy himself, and as a result, he is driven to ambition.
The Desire to Be Valuable
The desire to prove to oneself that one is deserving can foster ambition. Some very successful people, for example, were adopted. An adopted child may feel the need to prove his worth to the world and to his biological parents, which can lead to ambition.
When a person is confident in their abilities and believes that they can achieve their goals and obtain the things they desire, they are more likely to be ambitious.
Desire to Convince Others That They Are Wrong
If a person has been rejected, humiliated, or disapproved of, they may be motivated to prove the people who caused them to feel these negative emotions wrong. A person who has been rejected many times may become ambitious in order to prove to those who rejected him that they were wrong.
“People with a high degree of healthy ambition are those who have the insight and strength to control the blind forces of ambition, shaping [it] so that it matches their interests and ideals,” Burton says. “They harness it in such a way that it fires them without also burning them or those nearby.”
So, if you consider yourself to be ambitious, make sure that you shape your ambition into something that benefits both you and those around you.
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