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by Ron Kurtus (revised 7 January 2014)

Ambition is the strong drive for success. It is a positive personal character trait. A person without ambition is said to be shiftless. But it is possible to have too much ambition. In such a case, you may apply negative actions to achieve your goals.

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This lesson will answer those questions.

Being ambitious

A person who is ambitious has a dream of succeeding in some endeavor—usually related to his or her career. An ambitious person is hard-working in striving to achieve goals and to move up in the world.

Note that there are people who seem to have a natural inclination toward being ambitious. Often this trait can be seen during childhood. This appears to be an inborn personality trait and not something taught.

If you are ambitious in your job, you will be looking for ways to move up the ladder of success. You will put out an extra effort to make a mark in your job and to get a promotion. Employers like ambitious workers.

Being not very ambitious

There are people who are not ambitious. They may be satisfied with their present position and simply want to get by. They have no dreams of better things or of a better future. But this is not really a negative character trait.

Some of those who are not ambitious don't even just want to get by. Instead, they want to get out of doing work. They are considered shiftless or even lazy. Their dream is to get out of doing any sort of work and to be spending their time in leisure activities. Being shiftless is a negative character trait that leads to a lack of success in what they attempt.

Being too ambitious

Although being ambitious is a positive personal character trait, being too ambitious can result in negative character traits. Some people may have such a great desire to succeed and are so ambitious to reach the top that they may be ruthless, dishonest or harmful to others.

There are many stories of people who had such a drive and ambition to succeed that they would step on other people as they moved up the ladder toward success. Some of these people would lie and cheat to get ahead. People in entertainment and in business are sometimes exposed in the news for their unsavory tactics in getting ahead.

Unfortunately, many ruthless people—those with too much ambition—reach the top. You see this with the many dictators around the world. Although they have the positive personal character trait of ambition, they let it cause many negative social character traits. In the end, they are not very nice people.


Ambition is the strong drive for success and is a positive personal character trait. A person with ambition has a dream of moving up in the world. Some have no real ambition but still do good work. Others would rather get out of work, are shiftless and have a negative character trait. Too much ambition can result in being ruthless and having the negative social character traits of not being a very nice person.

Be ambitious

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