Lacking Ambition & Drive – How To Light That Fire?

Not feeling the spark?

Earlier this month I asked some of you to tell me what you struggled with.

One of the responses was unexpected and real ~

“I find it difficult to get enthused about stuff, I’m more lukewarm and accepting of all possibilities so not much pulls me completely. Drive and ambition are not a part of my vocabulary. Still, I’m a vibrant, spiritual person with joy for life. Go figure!”

She wanted to know what was up with that. What instantly popped into my mind was “hey, there’s nothing wrong with a lack of drive and ambition”!

Interestingly (or not ;)), I’ve always thought of myself as lacking ambition as well. Many who know me will protest, but I have never been ambitious.

At least, not in the sense most people think.

You see, I never wanted to be the CEO of a company, or make a 6 figure salary, or travel first class for work, or buy a fancy home and live a jet setting lifestyle (changed my mind on the 000,000’s  just this year).

To me, that’s what ambitious people wanted. Me, I was content to take it one day at a time, follow my sense of fun and adventure and not worry about climbing the corporate ladder.

Heck, every time I was up the ladder, I jumped ship and set sail to a new country.

In retrospect, I just didn’t agree with other people’s definition of ambitious and driven!  From someone who job-hopped every 9 months and could never see herself as being self employed to running her own business as an entrepreneur and coach, I’ve come a long way baby.

Not ambitious? LOL!

Looking at the past 12 years of my life, I see that I WAS driven. To have fun. To travel. To learn. To grow. To follow my own path. To morph my life experiences into who I am today.

My ambition, (even though I didn’t know it then), was to see the world, create memories and nurture close connected friendships all over the world. In the process, I grew up, opened my world of possibilities and became a sponge.

Too often we relate being ambitious and driven with what we think it’s supposed to be.

When we think of an ambitious person, we often think of someone with a lot of energy, many passions, opinionated, strong willed, maybe a little ruthless (!), possibly works 80 hours a week, lives the fast life, is vibrant and alive!

True for some, very untrue for others.

Here’s the deal – Aliveness can show up in many different ways. As a society we’ve been led to believe he who creates the most ripples is the most driven.

However, some of the most inspiring people in the world have a purpose and passion in life that’s so strong, you can sense it in every pore of their being (a certain late nun in India comes to mind). Is that not driven?

To my friend I would say:

  • redefine what these words mean to you
  • find out what you really, truly want
  • notice where you put your attention, and how it makes you feel
  • pull apart “drive & ambition” and “vibrant & spiritual” – are they being collapsed together somehow?

I’ve taken one approach to answering this question but I know there are lots more like setting routines, willpower, changing habits, energetic vibe, physical health, etc.

And now I’m musing .. Do we really have to be ambitious to be successful? Can you be hardworking without being ambitious at the same time? Does lacking ambition and drive make one lazy and unsuccessful? Does it mean you’ll always be a drifter? Can it be a good thing?


Your turn. What would you add if this was your friend, son, daughter, employee – how would you respond? What do YOU really think about ambition and drive and how does that show up in your life? I’m looking forward to learning from you, thanks for playin!

Facebook comments:



  1. Janette says

    Hm, I always thought I lacked drive and ambition AND I feel like I’ve been marking time all my life. And yet most people tell me they’re amazed at all the different things I’ve done. Interesting, isn’t it, how perspectives differ?

    Your post has helped me clear that up – thank you Tia-bear for perfectly timed insight as usual!!!

    I’ve only just come to terms with the fact that for *ahem..* years I’ve been living with other people’s definitions of success in my eyes. If you asked me MY definition… well, I’m still working on that one, I’ll get back to you. Which means I’m nowhere near answering the question of whether I am successful – or ambitious. I think we can be successful without knowing it.

    I AM starting to get clear on my values, however; and in the top five core values I find “learning/exploration” and “variety”. That’s it! I have a low boredom threshold! No wonder a long-term job has never been an option! (In fact, my current job is the longest ever – at three years!)

    Heheheheh. From one rolling stone to another (who wants icky green moss all over, right??) mwah!

  2. says

    I reckon it’s not as important to know if we are ambitious or driven as much as if we’re following our hearts desire and living a life of purpose ay Janette! To me, living in a conscious & aware way, finding and following my joy is where it’s at (gramma’ be dashed!).

    And the only definition of success I want to follow? That when I die, I’ll look back at my life with a big smile and say ‘That was WORTH it”!

    Thanks for sharing your values my Aussie friend! Mwah right backatcha!

  3. Shulamit says

    Hi Tia

    First of all, thank you for the so direct answer to my concern about what I struggle with.

    The issue of lack of drive and ambition came to my attention after being trained as a co-active coach by CTI. I felt that, in order to do that work well, I need to be like the teachers, full and boosting of drive and ambition… and I wasn’t that.

    On the other hand I have been a therapist and writer and worked with people for over 20 years so I probably have some passion at it, though I might not express it like others do.

    My concept of ambition is my own mother, she wants to achieve, and she does… I want to live, travel, contemplate… and I do too! I want my spirituality (ECKANKAR) to be very alive in my life, and it is. I never wanted either big worldly successes, just my very own. And to those I certainly can commit.

    It is very interesting to me that you look at your life in 12 years figures. My belief is that the most important cycle is the 12 year cycle. I immigrated (to Israel) 12 years ago, got married 12 years ago, have been in my spiritual path for twice 12 years… am I ready and excited for a new life? You bet!

    I have studied many things (including Psych-K… one more thing that attracted me to you) and many other therapeutic and helping paths… coaching is my newest tool.

    My ambition, (even though I have never called it that), has been to see the world, see people transform, experience life a spiritual experience, be channel for “God” or whatever you call that higher force. Is that an “ambition”? or a desire… whatever it is, it has been a main force in my life, my life purpose.

    And I agree, I too was relating being ambitious and driven with what I thought was supposed to be (certainly to be a god coach).

    You ask, Can lacking ambition and drive be a good thing? I can say that I always felt it was a huge value.

    Thanks for taking the time to answer to my concern and to help me ponder of this issue some more.
    I like your posts! Shuli

  4. says

    Wow Shuli! Way to go identifying that just because your drive and ambition doesn’t look like that of front of the room facilitators, doesn’t mean you don’t HAVE any! Also, facilitation as such speaks to me about personality traits rather than ambition (even though they all might have a healthy dose of drive too -but we collapse them together without realising).

    That’s where many of us may have faltered a bit – in misinterpreting qualities for desires.

    From the web: “Ambition is an eager and sometimes an exorbitant desire for elevation, honor, power, supremacy or simply the achievement of something.”

    We learn the meaning of these words and how they relate to us from early influences, no wonder then, that your mother’s ambition made you feel like YOU didn’t have any. Ha! Eye opening indeed!

    Ambition is one of those strong words which evoke a reaction from people. “You’re either ambitious or not” has got to be one of the lamest labels ever. We are ALL ambitious going by the dictionary meaning above (the lines that say the achievement of something, which are often glossed over thanks to the strong words preceding).

    In fact the more I think about this, I want to break the word apart. Let’s see what we can come up with..

    Ambit (from a wiki): sphere or area of control and influence of something; A span of actions, thoughts, or words.

    Hence ambition = the tionification of actions, thoughts and words that we control. LOL. I think I like that!! Thanks again for posing the question and for the detailed comment, loved hearing from you! x

    ps: didn’t know the 12 year cycle was a major one! thinking back, a totally new phase of life began at age 13 (when my dad left the Air Force and we lived in the same city for 12 years), and then again at 24 (when I left home to live on my own!), seems like huge changes happen in my life every 12 years (and also in between them). Gosh now I’m excited about age 36!! 😀

  5. says

    I read this blog post earlier today and thought, “Heck, yeah!” Then when I came back to make a comment and read what everyone else had written I thought, “I’ve found my people!”

    I agree with so much of what has been said about ambition not taking the form of material success. Or that from the outside, others might think I’m successful although I still wonder some days. I know I need to redefine ambition, success, and other such terms for myself and STOP using other peoples’ definitions…which is harder than I thought it would be.

    I once told my coach I feel like I’ve been chopping my way through a thick jungle with my machetti. That’s because I’ve chosen to make my own path in life and not just cruise down a pre-paved thoroughfare that seems to have bumper-to-bumper traffic. And boy…am I tired! Sometimes the “normal” path that is already carved out looks so appealing as I keep swinging that machetti and only make what feels like tiny steps forward. But like Tia said earlier, when I look back at that path I chopped away, I do think “It’s been worth it!!”

    There are times when, tired and more than a little delerious, I set down my machetti and step onto the super-highway with everyone else. But there’s always that pull back to the jungle. Some sort of call of the wild or something!

    I know deep down I have great ambition. It just happens to be ambition to slow down and enjoy life more. To snuggle up with my cats on a rainy day and stay inside reading a book. To see if I can take a 3 week trip for under $1000 by staying with friends (old & new) or eating at side of the road food carts (which in addition to being cheap often have SUCH good food!). To swing my machetti and advance only an inch while others go miles on the paved roads to material success.

    Motly because I know my inch is new, exciting, unexplored. And all mine if I want it. And I do want it! I suppose that’s my version of ambition.

    Now where’s that machetti?

  6. says

    Indeed Leslie my beautiful new IRL friend! Having grown up with a certain idea of what success, drive, ambition look like, it can be a challenge to break out of that mould. Here’s to LEADING like a girl and carving your own path, knowing that you’re impacting tons of people who (may not even know yet that they) feel the same way!

    You know, I found it interesting what you said about ambition not taking the form of material success. Because when I was younger, I didn’t care about money at all whereas everyone around me seemed to. Now, I definitely want money, lots of money, I love it and care about having it AND at the same time I know I want what it personifies to me – freedom, time, independence, travel, fun.. rather than stacks of greenbacks.

    Totally believe we can be rich AND spiritual, follow the road less travelled AND hop back on the highway to take a shorter route, have our cake AND eat it too – that’s what it’s meant for 🙂

    I LOVE your ambition to slow down and enjoy life and the little things! And here’s a thought – it may seem that others are going miles towards material success, but only they know in their hearts if they truly FEEL successful. I’m fascinated by this discussion we’re having about what constitutes success! Feel a new blog post stirring up 😉

    Thanks for your incredible input, machete’s behind the door and please, please, please say you’ll move to Vancouver and bring Stephanie with you?

    Love ya! xo

  7. Carol says

    “Looking at the past 12 years of my life, I see that I WAS driven. To have fun. To travel. To learn. To grow. To follow my own path. To morph my life experiences into who I am today.”

    I love how you said that, Tia! You were exactly where you were supposed to be to become the awesome person you are today. We see that as success . . . but the bean counters of the world don’t have a way to quantify your experiences, so they don’t fit society’s definition of success. But what do they know?

    I’m with Leslie and her great ambition to slow down and enjoy life more. I was downsized a year ago and have spent the past year trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up.

    People are always asking what I do all day. I had a huge garden and have a freezer full of food. I completely refinished three rooms at my mom’s. I cleaned out and disposed of two storage units full of stuff (goodbye to old energy!). I refinished a few pieces of furniture. I moved twice. I painted the entire inside of my current residence. I read and listen to food for the soul every day. But I don’t have a job yet. Most people probably think I am seriously lacking ambition and drive! Hardly a success in others’ eyes.

    But I’m happier than I’ve been in years and my spiritual growth is taking quantum leaps these days. And I get to take that with me into other/future lives. Others around me are working lots of hours, complaining about their jobs, and are so busy that they’re not enjoying the things they do have in this life. Been there . . . done that! All the ambition and drive in the world isn’t worth it to me if that’s the definition of success.

    Live . . . laugh . . . love . . . and be happy. That’s where I’m placing my ambition and drive these days.

    “I’ve found my people!” I feel exactly the same way, Leslie! Thank you for hosting this wonderful community, Tia!

  8. says

    The bean counters! Rofl! True that, what do human beans know about humans being!? I too sometimes spend days just being, and doing nada. As long as I’m being present and being happy (or even those times I’m not happy) I’m living consciously and that’s truly a remarkable ambition to have!

    You all are people after my own heart. I say YES to not beating ourselves up for being who we are – people who like a slow paced yet full life and prefer to manifest things rather than working hard the traditional way. Which isn’t to say we don’t work “hard” in our own way. Gosh, living a life of awareness and consciousness is the hardest thing I’ve ever done!

    Love how me and you and Leslie and Janette and Shuli and many others reading this are drawn to each other’s philosophies and vibe. We all get to pick our OWN definitions of success and that’s all that ever matters. I’m SO grateful to Shuli for asking that question 🙂

    Special thanks for “Live laugh love and be happy … !” I appreciate you Carol xo

  9. says

    Leslie, just had to add re the inch by inch progress while others are running miles – slow advancement, step by step is a very cappy thing apparently! Sure footed mountain goats WILL make it to the top on their own schedule 😉 Everyone who commented on this post must all have cappy somewhere in their charts hehe (I know you and I do!)

    There’s my little tongue in cheek astro insight for the day! LOL!

  10. Carol says

    Alan Cohen’s “Daily Inspiration” for today is:

    “The most important shift of life comes when you cease to pursue outer things and begin to pursue inner happiness.”

    Thought it was most fitting for this discussion . . . 🙂

  11. says

    Perfect 🙂 As my massage teacher used to say (in an earlier post) “OUT-tention follows IN-tention”. At any given time, what we’re feeling inside is what we’re reflecting outside. Reminds me of what Wayne Dyer says – if you squeeze an orange, you’re going to get OJ. Not apple juice, not soda, but OJ.

    Thanks for today’s inspiration!

  12. MissyB says

    LOL Carol – that quote needs to go in on Jeannette’s goodvibe blog – her latest guest post says exactly the same.

    As for me – I’ve got bugger all ambtion or motivation. I still don’t know what I want to do when I grow up. I plod ! I have the occassional gallop. But stuff gets done if I take a fancy to it. Sometimes I wish for more drive. Come to think about it, perhaps I should put out a request for more drive – afterall – its only a desire away.

  13. says

    Missy, I’ll just BET there’s SOMETHING you’re driven to do/be/like. I know cos you said there’s stuff you take fancy to. You just may not have looked at your values or what makes you happy through the lens of your own ambition.

    We are all driven when we want something. God help me but I’m Wayne Dyering again – he talks about his son who isn’t motivated to do much, sleeps till noon and is always tired. Till the kid goes on a surfing trip to Indonesia. He LOVES the water. Next thing you know, he\s up at 5am everyday making himself breakfast, bright and chirpy. All through the trip. Gets back home, turns into a sloth again. Or so the story goes.

    So. What drives you? And it doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s but YOURS.

    What say girlfriend ;)?

  14. says

    Wow! To me ambition is personal, it is what I do that fulfills my life and gives me what I want and need. But it has not always been that definition; it previously has been based on my views of others success (or what I have perceived as their success.)

    I have been disconnected from my daily routine for the last month and it has been a very learning experience. I have been living on our sailboat and working with my husband. The marina’s internet connection has been poor, so I have minimally read email, blogs and kept up with the world. I was on such a roll before I left, and now feel bogged down trying to reconnect. My ambition of blogging weekly, writing and coaching has wained while living on the boat –full of inconveniences in every aspect of daily life. I really am not complaining, because it has provided answers to questions that I have wanted to know. One answer is coaching on this boat is not possible. But on a different boat purchased with a private berth/office for coaching and high tech communications is the only way that it will be possible. Now I am reassessing my ambition of coaching while cruising, and what my ambition truly is for both of these.

    I think of ambition more as a compilation of many things that I want to achieve more than one continuum of some goal where I have to prove myself to others and to me.

  15. says

    Berta Berta I’ve missed you, welcome back! Are you going to blog about your boat experience once you’ve settled in? Here’s a thought reg catching up with your reading – Don’t. Don’t make reading your fav blogs/articles etc a task.

    Trust that when you need to know something, you’ll be led to the perfect resource. Playing catchup can be more work than fun when we worry about missing out on perfect gems of wisdom… been there, done that.

    Isn’t it just awesome to see how many of us are redefining ambition? 🙂 I love that you said it’s what fulfills you. Bullseye!

  16. MissyB says

    Well Tia – I can’t answer your question :o(

    For many years I have wondered what my “goal” is. My drive, my thang (!), my gift – I’ve no idea. This at times has made me very sad. Very few things excite me to drive me forward. It makes me laugh because we can have anything we want – yet I don’t really want anything. Yes there are some things that tickle my fancy – but they pass. Oh gosh this sounds soooo sad – and its not meant to be – I’m happy with my lot.

    Having spent heartache searching for something I don’t even know what is, I’ve settled with finding joy in all things I do. Doesn’t always work, but its better than searching.

    I do hope this makes sense …

  17. says

    Actually it’s not sad, it’s ZEN!! When you get to the stage of not wanting anything and finding joy in everything, that’s as close to enlightenment one can get Missy. The practice of being happy and content in the moment is what I strive for and you’ve got it going. Holy wow, you’re an inspiration.

  18. MissyB says

    LOL – I so way off enlightenment ! I’d just say I was boringly happy with what I’ve got. Enlightenment is there for those far far above me on the spiritual level. There are many things that don’t please me – but I just try not to fight them.

    I’m not great – that’s a job left for you and Jeannette – that’s why you are coaches. That’s why I drop by – to gather as much info as I can get. I could have much more than I have – but I just don’t see the point.

    I have in my garage a desire that has been in the making for a few years. It came to me only because I wrote off my last bike and the insurance meant I could afford this bigger bike. BUT I nearly killed myself to get it. I’m not happier because of the bike – I’m happier because I recovered from a broken back and some other pretty serious injuries. I suppose you could say I’ve had some drive to get through the last 11 months !

    I’m not enlightened – I just faced a darker place that put alot of material and trivial things in to perspective. Jeannette’s good vibe guest post summed it up for me. I am a work in progress !

  19. says

    I don’t know about that .. do you know how hard it is to let go and not fight what you don’t like? Acceptance / lack of resistance qualifies as enlightened in my eyes. One doesn’t have to be a sage sitting on top of a mountain in India to experience detachment or see the light.

    I got to where I am by surviving some very, very dark years in my life and I bet Jeannette’s had it rough too. We ALL probably have! That’s exactly what brings us to a place of perspective, which to me is an an enlightened life – living a life of purpose and awareness. Again, people have different ideas of what enlightenment means, I’m making my own and this is what I mean by it.

    You are FAR further ahead on your spiritual path than you realise Missy. I see it SO clearly in you. All that’s needed is for YOU to see it as well :).

    ps: Even those master sages? They’re all a work in progress. The day we stop learning and growing, is the day we die…

    pps: ok this is eerie … today’s TUT: The reason others think they need you, Tia, is because they don’t yet fully believe that they already have all that it takes to have all that they want. So they pretend you hold the key. And vice versa. <---- Goosebumps!!!

  20. MissyB says

    Thanks Tia – yes you are right, I’m probably higher up the ladder than I think I am. I didn’t read TUT today fully til you put it in here – spooky !

    Thanks for having faith in me.

  21. Paul says

    Not a bad article but could you get rid of the crap on the left? It makes the article hard to read and feels like your trying to badger people for likes and stuff, which makes me feel less inclined to give them out. At least let people close it, rather than blocking off part of the article

    • says

      Thanks for the feedback, Paul! It’s not covering the article and is on the left to make it easier to share, not badger. Feel free to not share if it bugs you 🙂 Glad you liked the article.

  22. Tonya says

    It’s 4:30 in the morning where I am my husband just left for work. I was looking up “feeling lonely in your marriage” and stumbled across this blog some how. And I would like to say I HAVE FOUND MY PEOPLE! I have the same desires that you all have but have never been able to put it in words. Honestly I have been scared to let myself be this way, because I have a two kids and a husband that is very hard working and wants nice things. But all of those ideas about what ambition can look like besides working yourself to death truly awakened something in me..I love to learn about different cultures, I love to travel and take my kids to experience new places and things and I love taking pictures of this. I love to read and write. I love to have time to contemplate on WHATEVER. I just struggle with the fact of, should I be trying to reach my full potential career wise, I am still young.

    • Maria says

      I have truly enjoyed reading this thread! I don’t feel I lack ‘ambition’…just the opposite. I feel I have ambition floating out the eyeballs, but no financial means to accomplish much of anything. However, I love unconventional freedom….it is my ambition (how ironic). I would love to share our story with you in a more private setting…and maybe you could offer some helpful insight? Just wanted to comment and let you know that you are doing a wonderful job! 🙂

  23. says

    i lack the incentive to do the things in my life that need to be done. I have the time but not the wanna. Get it back, how? I am 74 years old. Is that it?


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