Inevitably on interviews with clients, in therapy, on dating profiles or during those randomly wine-fueled evenings with friends where conversations become intense, I’ve been asked how I would describe myself. There are plenty of adjectives I can come up with (I am a writer, after all) — but one that instantly comes to mind is ‘ambitious.’
I’ve known I was destined to be a journalist since I was a kid and it is a career I’ve pursued fiercely for nearly all of my 30 years. This type of drive is innate and accessible for me, something that I don’t even have to think too much about to harbor and execute.
Being motivated to succeed and pursue the road ahead of you doesn’t have to be a skill you’re naturally born with though. Instead, you can derive those fundamentals of ambition by stealing a page out of the playbook of those who identify as highly-ambitious.
Here, they divulge their secrets.
Don’t settle for anything other than happiness
And while it would make sense for me to recommend you find a job that will fulfill all of your senses and drive you to the top — that isn’t what brings joy to everyone. I credit much of my drive to the fact that I love what I do. I’m lucky that writing, content strategy and editing are tasks I would do for free — in fact, I did until someone finally paid me. Creating pieces of work that inspire others, that shed light on an important topic or provide accurate, helpful information makes me happy.
Seeing my byline never gets old. But other people may source this same feeling by having a gig that allows for a healthy work/life balance. Or one that is so lucrative it allows them to pursue hobbies that excite them.
Whatever the source of your glee, you will find the most organic ambition by making it a priority. This means never settling for second-best or okay-enough—but going after what will eventually, get you to where you hope to be.
Don’t be afraid to take risks
The road to major accomplishments is rarely open-ended and free. More often than not, it’s congested with bumper-to-bumper traffic, in the rain, on a Tuesday, when you have a meeting in ten minutes. But taking that exit when you were terrified it would lead you the wrong way? It’s worth the risk.
Career and branding expert Wendi Weiner took a major leap of faith when she left an 11-year tenure in law to focus on the career she now has: “The biggest risk I took in my life was leaving law after an 11-year career in it to focus on my dreams of being a professional writer and career branding expert.”
“I told myself I was willing to risk making less money in exchange for greater personal and professional happiness. In the end, taking that risk was the best decision I ever made — I am more successful today and more financially secure than I ever was as a lawyer,” she shares.
Choose your company wisely
A work bestie is a blessing. So is a co-founder who basically shares a brainwave with you. But toxic, negative people who bring your spirit down? They gotta go on your path to an ambitious mindset. As the CEO and founder of Coddle, Sean Pathiratne explains, keeping company with people who are at least as passionate as he is, keeps him invigorated.
“I want people who inject oxygen into the room — not people who suck it out,” he calls it. This doesn’t mean people who only agree with you, but rather, those who make you a better version of yourself.
“I don’t want people to ‘yes’ me to death — I want to be challenged,” he continues. “What I’ve found is that these are also people I can learn from, and who inspire self-development.”
Set goals at different time parameters
It’s one thing to say you’re going to develop a blog for your industry that reaches thousands of people. It’s another to say you’ll do that within the next year. To keep her ambitious self on course, Weiner shares she doesn’t just think long-term or big picture, but weekly, monthly and yearly.
She explains these small, targeted goals help her focus and gives her a way to reflect on areas she’s excelled at and ones she’s falling short. Whether you write these micro benchmarkers down by hand or set a reminder on your calendar, tracking progress will ensure continuous progress.
Know where you want to go
Though every step of the way is important, sure, having a clear vision to the end-all-be-all spot in your career can help navigate your choices too, founder and CEO of the RFP Success Company, Lisa Rehurek shares. She explains when you can picture that place you’re going, it makes everything along the way hassle-free.
“I revisit it on a regular basis and adjust as necessary, and all roads lead back to that vision. Knowing what I ultimately want allows me to make quick decisions and keep moving forward,” she continues. “Because of my strong conviction in that vision, I have way more faith than fear, so that fear doesn’t trip me up very often.”
Understand what keeps you motivated
Financial gains? A killer title? The ability to move mountains — or numbers. Praise from your manager? Time with your kids? Rehurek says to remain ambitious, you must know what motivates you to keep going when the going gets tough.
“I know that I am motivated by recognition. If I’m not getting recognized, then I need to shift something to get more recognition in order to stay motivated,” she shares as an example. “In 2018, I did a lot of things that gave me that recognition – developed an online learning institute, started a new podcast, wrote another book, participated in an online business reality show.”
As she goes into 2019, she doesn’t have as many “big” nuggets on the horizon, so she puts her nose to the grind to create opportunities to fulfill her.
Develop a do, ditch and delegate process
Especially as you rise through the ranks and become a manager, it’s more important than ever to use your time not only wisely but strategically. Even those who are inherently motivated can get bogged down in the details, making it difficult to see the path at the end of the weeds. Rehurek has developed a ‘do, ditch and delegate’ process to get the most out of her working hours. This keeps her pushing forward and allows for peak productivity.
How does it work? Simply: do the things you’re great at, ditch the ones you don’t need to contribute to or waste your genius and delegate tasks that are better suited for someone else, making room for you to work harder on your vision.