Ambition… Desire for achievement

Ambition can be viewed both as a virtue and a vice depending on its motivations and circumstances. There are some people who do not consider it a virtue at all,

  • PublishedAugust 28, 2011

Ambition can be viewed both as a virtue and a vice depending on its motivations and circumstances. There are some people who do not consider it a virtue at all, while others see it as a positive driver of people’s actions and achievements. Ambition is defined as a strong desire to do or achieve something, typically requiring determination and hard work. It is the desire and determination to achieve success.

Ambition has been equated with aggressiveness and single-mindedness in many movies and novels. Severally, it is the ambitious character that is associated with greed and corruption that is taught a hard lesson. It is however necessary to note that this type of ambition is what is referred to as selfish ambition.

According to the Bible, selfish ambition is a sin. Philippians 2:3 says: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.” Ambition becomes selfish ambition when it conf licts with the rightful needs of others, or is motivated by selfish desires and is always about ‘me’. Selfish ambition is present when people define themselves by their achievements, rather than by their character, according to R. Paul Stevens, author of The Complete book of Everyday Christianity. He lists down several symptoms of selfish ambition – relentless striving with an inability to rest, discouragement at the lack of recognition obtained for one’s hard work, predatory competition, use of the present situation (and people) as stepping stones, and an ‘endless itchiness for other possibilities.

’ Nonetheless, if people do anything worthwhile, they must be motivated by something powerful enough to move them into action, and this is where ambition comes in as a virtue. A virtue is a desirable trait that contributes toward the betterment of self or society. Ambition is the desire for achievement, which has the potential to improve a person and those around him or her and is in this respect a virtue.

Ambition is required for any difficult or seemingly impossible task to be completed. A lot of great people throughout history were driven by ambition to solve a particular problem through invention or make a difference in their countries through activism, among other things. Ambition is what enabled them to push forward under the most difficult circumstances.

Ambition motivates. It makes us focused, energetic, and hard working. It gives us a vision and a passion, as we strive to accomplish our goals. It makes us try, without letting the fear of failure stop us. It enables us to make worthwhile efforts. It is not wrong to be ambitious, although we should always be careful to note the source of our motivation. Is our motivation noble, or even Godly? Or is it a selfish motivation?


Keep away from those who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you believe that you too can become great.

Mark Twain (1835-1910), American humorist, writer and lecturer

Ambition is the path to success. Persistence is the vehicle you arrive in.

Bill Bradley, retired American NBA basketball player and senator

I do not fear failure. I only fear the “slowing up” of the engine inside of me which is pounding, saying, “keep going, someone must be on top, why not you?

General George S. Patton (1885-1945), World War I and II American general

A man without ambition is dead. A man with ambition but no love is dead. A man with ambition and love for his blessings here on earth is ever so alive.

Pearl Bailey (1918 –1990), American actress and singer

Great ambition is the passion of a great character. Those endowed with it may perform very good or very bad acts. All depends on the principles, which direct them.

Napoleon Bonaparte (1769 –1821), French military and political leader

A young man without ambition is an old man waiting to be.

Steven Brust, American fantasy and science fiction author

Your thoughts

Too little ambition is like the caterpillar becoming comfortable in its cocoon and refusing to come out, while too much ambition is like the child with scissors in hand, cutting open the cocoon to help the butterf ly come out. The right amount of ambition would be the butterf ly knowing it’s time to break out, and struggling with all its might to do so.

Budgeree Lang’at, student, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT)

Ambition is the focus we place on the things we desire, shown through our efforts. At times our motivation and drive may seem lacking, but if we stay focused on our goals and give our best we will achieve our ambitions.

George Oyuke, freelance writer

Email: [email protected]

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