When I’m talking to someone who I haven’t had the benefit of researching their background in advance, there are some initial questions I might ask them to determine more about them. Some of my questions are geared towards gauging what their level of ambition might be. For context, I find it interesting to learn about what the different elements are that contribute to someone’s ambition level.
We understand that ambition levels can ebb and flow, and this is fine. However, there are times during a person’s life or their career when having an innate drive towards being ambitious will serve them well. Although physiologically and as a generalization when we are sub-45, our energy levels tend to be fairly strong. This certainly can contribute to fueling a person’s ambition, but it’s not the only factor.
Another factor which I have seen contribute to a person’s ambition level is their desire to achieve, and often, they are only in competition with themselves. They will also have their own measurements for what they deem to be an attainment of success, and can be manically focused on their achievement goals. Having the ability to focus and the discipline it can take to achieve difficult goals isn’t strictly reserved for “younger” people, as it’s actually a person-by-person observation.
The traits of being focused, disciplined and having a strong desire to achieve are also often accompanied by someone who enjoys the pursuit of competition. Not always, but this is another common characteristic which tends to be woven into the behavior of someone who is ambitious. Interestingly, another observation and pattern I have noticed about ambitious people is that they can inspire others with sheer determination they have towards being accomplished.
One of the things I find interesting about individuals who would be classified as ambitious, is that they don’t always have a role model. Sure, they do sometimes, but some of the most ambitious people I have had the opportunity to engage with didn’t have one. What they did have was their own internal blueprint for how they would strategically go about reaching their desired goals. Arguably this is where the aspect of nurture versus nature could come into the conversation.
Although people who are ambitious are well served by having a support system of others helping them in some capacity, many ambitious individuals will pursue their goals independently. This is a much more difficult approach, but it can and does work well for some. For example, I know someone who at a young age decided to pursue working towards accomplishing a goal most people wouldn’t consider taking on until their mid to late twenties. However, this person embarked upon accomplishing a very difficult to pursue goal, and achieved it before they were in their mid-twenties.
There was a great deal of sacrificing this person had to endure for 3-4 years, but they are now enjoying the results of the tremendously time consuming and focused approach they pursued and achieved. They did this on their own terms, and it was remarkable to see what it took to accomplish this. Especially because no aspect of what they were pursuing would be classified as being fun. Just the opposite. Yet, they had the internal drive and ambition it took to pull off and accomplish something that so few people at their age accomplish. Probably less than half of one percent, and they knew this odd at the beginning of their journey.
Picking back up on the nature versus nurture debate, I am of the opinion that everyone has some level of ambition in them. In my opinion, what separates highly ambitious people from those who are not, is a combination of factors. One of them being an innate desire to succeed, another one is they are not afraid of failing, and a third is that they can visualize what the end results of their accomplishment will be like, and they will leverage this heavily. Especially when they are experiencing times when they might not think they will be able to reach their goal. Even if this is a fleeting thought.
For the sake of conversation, let’s agree that everyone has the capacity to be ambitious, and have what it takes to persevere towards their goal or goals. Given this thinking, here are some suggestions to help inspire you, or someone you know or lead who would like to be classified as ambitious.
- Having realistic timelines for achievements are not always possible, but the closer they are towards being attainable will be beneficial.
- Make sure your ambitions are not based or biased on what you think you should be doing, or what you think someone else expects of you. If they are not your own ambitions, it will be much more difficult to stay on course to achieve them.
- Your level of ambition will be different than others. It is unique to you, and it will not be productive to compare your level to others. Work on fostering your level upwards, as it has more capacity to increase than you might think it has.
- Build in some minor celebrations as you hit milestones towards your pursuits.
- Ask yourself “why” am I in pursuit of the goal(s) I have? If you can’t convince yourself they are worth it, it will be inevitably more difficult to accomplish them.
- Do you have someone you can model even a portion of your pursuits after? You don’t have to know them, but the more you can understand their journey, this can be informative to help you know what obstacles you might encounter. Better yet, to avoid them.
- If you are driven by pride, this can be a tremendously strong motivator.
- Knowing that what you are pursuing and how it could positively impact both yourself and others, can assist in maintaining your ambition level to take you over some of the hurdles you will experience during your pursuits.
- Don’t place self-imposed restrictions on yourself based on your age, education or where you are presently in your life or professional pursuit. Instead, remain diligently focused on where you want to be instead.
Yes, being ambitious will take a certain amount of energy and determination, but I promise you, it will be worth putting in the effort it will take to get you there. Even if you don’t believe that you can accomplish what you wildly desire to do. As Nike says, “Just do it”.
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