The psychology of ambition or ambition
Ambition is a character trait that has been studied by psychologists since the early 20th century.
The concept of ambition was originally defined by William MacDougall, an English psychologist who published his first book on the subject in 1912.
He argued that people have two main motivations: the need to achieve (i.e. the desire to become more) and the need to avoid humiliation (i.e. the fear of becoming smaller). In recent decades, this concept has been popularized by Malcolm Gladwell, who argues that ambition is “the capacity for self-transcendence."
What makes people ambitious? Why are they striving for success?
Now we are going to talk about ambition. Psychology is varied in its approach to various human traits, and like any other trait that defines a person, ambition can be explained through various psychological theories.
In 1943, psychologist Abraham Maslow developed his theory of the hierarchy of needs. His theory was that people must satisfy three fundamental needs: physiological, security, love, and belonging.
These are grouped needs such as sleep and hunger, security needs such as home and work. Social needs such as love or friendship. Esteem needs, such as achievement and recognition, and self-actualization needs, or higher needs for truth, enlightenment, and wisdom.
One of the main components of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is ambition, or the drive to achieve and grow. Ambition, according to this theory, is the need for self-esteem and growth.
Libido, or vital desire, is psychoanalytically understood as the basis of ambition in both men and women. A high level of sexual or life attraction leads to a high level of ambition.
The Kohut model of personality development states that self-esteem is the foundation of all personality development. It gives an understanding of what drives a person’s ambitions.
Self-improvement psychology focuses on how a person’s own thoughts, actions, and emotions affect the development of a person and how they relate to other people.
Ambition – what does it mean in psychology
Pyramid on a banknote
Pyramid on a banknote
Ambition is an ardent desire to achieve success in life, a desire for personal or professional advancement, a desire for fame, power, money, rank, position, or a desire to achieve any particular goal, complete an activity, or receive the fruits of an activity. .
Thus, ambition is a “desire” just like any other desire. Where are the roots of such desires? Freud explained that desires are in our unconscious, and we are driven by our life and sexual desires.
If you have a sex drive, does that mean you will also have high ambitions?
Psychoanalysis will answer this question in the affirmative, since ambition is the desire to live, and an ambitious person necessarily has a strong vitality or survival instinct.
We can call it a kind of struggle for survival in a world of competition that underpins ambition. Thus, ambition is inherently positive and directed towards the overall development of a person. However, this is not the end of the story, we must understand what factors underlie it.
Ambition is a complex process and a human trait that can be caused by negative and positive factors:
Positive Ambition Factors
- increased confidence
- social and financial needs
- creative impulses
- emotional and intellectual needs
- sexual and vital attraction
- survival instinct
- personal motivation
Negative factors of ambition
- fear of failure in professional or social life
- fear of rejection in personal life
- feeling of inferiority
- feeling of superiority
- mental illness, such as bipolar disorder
- narcissism or selfishness
- lack of self-confidence
Ambitiousness – a quality of the elect or a vice
Now it becomes clear, the psychology of ambition allows you to realize two types of forces or a set of factors that make a person ambitious. We need to focus on how these forces can be used effectively.
In fact, many people can identify with most of the factors listed here that seem to motivate us to achieve certain goals.
We are ambitious because we want to achieve social status, we are afraid of rejection or failure in our personal and professional lives. Thus, a man may become ambitious in order to flaunt his position, rank or success in order to attract women.
A woman can become ambitious because she has a deep sense of inferiority and wants to stand out from other people by showing extreme competitiveness.
Deep desires are also possible, for example, to improve this world. However, I deliberately do not include such a mission, goal or desire to improve the world as a positive factor, because this mission or need, to change the world, is going beyond personal ambitions and may belong to the altruistic category.
Envy is a negative force that can be turned into a positive channel as competitiveness, and a person who is envious of a friend’s achievements may strive to succeed in his own way.
Ambition and inferiority complex
Each of us has a certain “inferiority complex” or “narcissistic streak”, but this is something we must try to overcome. This will help us become better versions of ourselves.
A person with a sense of superiority parallels a feeling of inferiority, since one who considers himself superior to others is always unconsciously afraid that his superiority may be challenged, which can cause a feeling of inferiority.
Mental illnesses, as in the case of bipolar disorder, can also show increased energy and emotions during manic episodes, when the person takes on multiple projects and "inflates" their ambitions.
Many creative individuals are considered bipolar. The pathological level of such a disorder, as a result of which a person loses all interest in life and ceases to function normally, requires medical and psychiatric care.
Successful people are those who can manipulate the forces of ambition to their advantage. They are able to change negative factors into positive ones, as well as effectively use positive factors without allowing them to become negative at any point in life.
Thus, a person with a bipolar tendency should use it positively to increase creativity. And a person with strong sexual urges can sublimate the energy in a socially constructive manner to prevent social or personal harm.
In order to achieve something meaningful, life puts a person in conditions and motivates with feelings, needs. By wielding positive or negative factors in an effective way, much can be achieved.
Who is an ambitious person
The next question that naturally arises is what type of people are most prone to ambition.
All who are moved by and influenced by the forces described above are ambitious, and therefore each person is inherently ambitious.
Ambition is the main life force. However, if the combination of these negative and positive factors is stronger in some than in others, these people will be more ambitious and successful in their implementation.
A healthy ambition is one that strikes a good balance between negative and positive factors.
Therefore, the extreme positive factors of ambition, such as overconfidence, or the extreme negative ones, such as increased fear of rejection, will only hinder and ultimately become an obstacle to his personal, social and professional development.