Let’s begin by thinking about whether ambition is something we innately have within us, or if this is a learned skill? For me personally, ambition is a concept which I didn’t begin thinking about until my late teens. At that point, I would admit that my ambition level wasn’t as high as it should have been, but I managed to attain the goals I set out to achieve.
Sure, I was proud of my goal attainments, but I wasn’t purely satisfied with them. I knew I could accomplish more, yet I was aware that there was something holding me back from doing so. For context, it wasn’t anything that was tragic, or that was impeding my mental or physical ability, but it did have an emotional component factor. A few people in my life know what was holding me back, and eventually I reached a point when I arrived at a place in my life where I accepted and allowed myself to put my ambition drive back into gear, and motion.
Admittedly the process of having my ambition level ramp up was slower than I would have liked it to have been. However, I also embraced the minor wins I saw which contributed to reaching new levels I was striving for both personally and professionally. This was a solo journey, and perhaps if I had asked for support from others, I might have gotten to the ambition level I wanted to be at faster. Although there is something to be said for achieving something on your own timeline and via pure grit.
As I was in the process of tuning up my ambition level, I was paying close attention to others around me who had seemingly cracked the code on understanding how to be ambitious, and attain exactly what they wanted to. I noticed some factors about these individuals as I was learning from them. One of them was that they had a monomaniacal focus on going after and achieving what they wanted to. I admired this trait, but struggled to do this myself. Eventually I figured out why I struggled with this ability to focus, but it wasn’t until multiple decades into my professional life that I did, and found a solution to help me.
The combination of focus and having a clear vision of what you want to achieve is part of the equation which contributes to being able to calculate someone’s ambition, but it only scratches the surface.
Another contributing factor to measuring ambition is understanding what you are willing to truly sacrifice to reach the goal or goals you are aiming towards. Let’s face it, the word sacrifice comes with lots of strings, and not always pleasant ones in order to make what you have to sacrifice worth it. Added to this mix is that we know there are no guarantees that when you sacrifice something, that it will be worth it. This makes doing so much harder, and this is where another element of measuring ambition comes into play.
The element is tenacity, and this is also something that is difficult to find the mental reserves and energy levels to maintain this. Doing so isn’t impossible, but having the right state of mind will contribute to whether you will succeed at having the tenacity level you will need to factor into the ambition equation.
Self-confidence, or at least the appearance of having this was another ingredient which I noticed those who would be classified as being ambitious also possessed. The word swagger comes to mind when I visualize people who appear to be this way, and in a very positive way of representing this.
Speaking of visualizing, I would add that having a clear vision of what a person wants to achieve is critically important. In the absence of having this, it will make it much more difficult to attain the goal or goals one is seeking without this. Particularly on days when your ambition level may be waning. In other words, it is important to include as much detail in your mind about what it will look like when you attain your achievements. This includes factoring in thinking about how you will feel when you arrive at your goal.
Having outlined the majority of the elements associated with what it takes to have ambition at any level, this still presents the question of how do you measure this? Either for yourself or someone else?
In terms of measuring ambition for yourself, my feeling is that you need to have your own method for determining and agreeing upon what your own definition of ambition means. Everyone is going to have a different definition, so it’s important to consider this when you are calculating what your own level is. This brings up the point of whether having ambition is an innate skill, or one that can be developed over time. For me personally, I will vote for the latter option, and this is based on my own personal experience.
If you were to come up with a method to calculate someone else’s ambition level, one way of doing so would be to determine via asking them questions what either their current or future ambition levels might be. Here are some questions to give this a try.
- How do you define success?
- What are (3-5) drivers for you personally which allows you to strive to achieve a goal?
- Why or what things would you sacrifice doing in your life to achieve a goal?
- What motivates you when your goal looks like it’s not attainable?
- Why is it important for you to be perceived as being ambitious?
- What do you envision your life to look like in a decade from now?
- On a scale of 1-10 (10 being the highest), what ambition level are you currently at?
- Are you focused on increasing your ambition level, or are you satisfied with the level it is at?
- Does being compared to others in terms of their achievements, inspire or have no impact on you?
- What are the intangible benefits to being ambitious, and that are important to you?
Given the reality that measuring ambition might be challenging to do, if it is something you want to do, then I’m sure you will find a way to ultimately do so, and I hope that my suggestions will help you along the way.
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