Ambition can get a bad rap when it’s paired with words like “greedy,” “selfish,” or “ruthless.” But in actuality, ambition — loosely defined as a strong desire to achieve something through hard work and determination — is the crucial driving force behind accomplishment and action. It’s what marks the difference between a dream and a reality, an idea and a project, a vision and a cultural shift.
Successful folks have long touted the power of ambition in their fields, be it entertainment, business, science, writing, sports, or otherwise — the point being that without a certain amount of hope and hunger, it would be too easy to get complacent and merely abide by the status quo. Ambition is what pushes people to think outside the realm of now and into the possibilities of the future. From there, it’s what motivates us to create, innovate, and explore the uncharted territory of dreams.
Perhaps the trickiest thing about ambition, however, is learning how to define it on our own terms. Or, as actor Santino Fontana so aptly put it, “Be limitless. Be definitionless. Be a pain in the ass for whoever writes your obituary.” Ambition can look different for every person, and can steer each of us toward a number of worthy pursuits. These 11 inspiring quotes speak to how our aspirations can help recalibrate us to lead our truest, fullest lives.
Our ambition should be to rule ourselves, the true kingdom for each one of us; and true progress is to know more, and be more, and to do more.
— Oscar Wilde, poet and playwright
Don’t be afraid to be ambitious about your goals. Hard work never stops. Neither should your dreams.
— Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, actor and former athlete
Ambition is the germ from which all growth of nobleness proceeds.
— Ralph Waldo Emerson, writer and philosopher
Those who are crazy enough to think they can change the world usually do.
— Steve Jobs, Apple co-founder
I’m tough, I’m ambitious, and I know exactly what I want. If that makes me a bitch, okay.
— Madonna, singer, songwriter and entrepreneur
Our ambitions can only be limited by our doubts.
— Rajesh, Indian actor and politician
Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.
— Mark Twain, novelist
I think a lot of people dream. And while they are busy dreaming, the really happy people, the really successful people, the really interesting, powerful, engaged people? Are busy doing.
— Shonda Rhimes, TV producer and screenwriter
If you have a great ambition, take as big a step as possible in the direction of fulfilling it. The step may only be a tiny one, but trust that it may be the largest one possible for now.
— Mildred McAfee, first woman commissioned officer in the U.S. Navy
Ambition is enthusiasm with purpose.
— Frank Tyger, editorial cartoonist
We cannot seek achievement for ourselves and forget about progress and prosperity for our community... Our ambitions must be broad enough to include the aspirations and needs of others, for their sakes and for our own.
— Cesar Chavez, labor leader and civil rights activist
Photo credit: pueblovista/ Unsplash