Choose Ambition

From the UPLift Choose series, on the maligned subject of “Ambition.”

by J. Randal Matheny

Choose book


Somewhere along the way, ambition got a bad name. Some folk let it throw them off balance, caused them to sacrifice essential things and led them to wreck health or relationships.

In and of itself, however, ambition is not a bad thing. Like sex or money, its the bad use of ambition that is dangerous.

It has its good and necessary side, which is why you should choose ambition.

Choice Thought

Ambition is the drive to make your dream come true.

Choose Ambition

1. Ambition is a question of degree.

The essence of ambition is desire, a certain type of desire. Ambition is a strong, intense desire to gain some end.

Some people want certain things or results, others would like to have them, others wish for them, but few will ever get them because their level of desire or wishing never moves them to sustained, directed action designed to get what they want.

Ambition means to want something so badly (or goodly) that one is willing to do whatever it takes to get it.

The word ambition comes from the Latin, meaning to “go around,” and had to do with soliciting votes. Ambition puts feet in the street to get the votes, puts action to the desire to obtain the desired end.

2. Ambition must be directed to serve others.

The end or desired result may be moral or immoral, legal or illegal, beneficial or harmful. Ambition of itself is neutral and is commended or condemned based on what it pursues and how it pursues it.

Wilbur Wilberforce’s driving ambition was to end slavery in Britain. As a member of Parliament, he endured great obstacles, political interests and personal smear campaigns to fulfill his Christian dream of the equality of all men.

His ambition was directed toward the good of others and he worked undeterred until that dream was realized.

The Bible speaks of “selfish ambition” as a quality unworthy of God’s children. Directed toward selfish ends, ambition constitutes wasted effort.

3. Ambition needs big enough reasons to last.

Here it is that ambition serves as a synonym for the word “aspiration,” a strong desire to achieve something high or great.

Your why has to be as big as your what. Your reason has to loom so large in your imagination that giving up or settling for less in inadmissible.

Find that reason and you’ve found your ambition. That’s why your ambition has to be bigger than yourself.

4. Ambition matches the means to the end.

Some politicians desire to win their party’s nomination and be elected president of their country. Fine and good. That’s ambition at the root meaning of the word. But some of those same politicians are willing to lie, cheat, steal and engage in whatever illegal and immoral means at their disposal which they think they can get by with in order to achieve their goal.

True, good ambition recognizes its limits, knows its proper boundaries, accepts the constraints of morality and ethics. True ambition is just and honest. It refuses to pursue success at the cost of integrity.

It will, however, use all available means within the realm of the good to reach its goal.


True and good ambition permits one to focus and not be distracted by other goals, discouraged by obstacles nor intimidated by opposition.

Ambition is fed by constantly reviewing one’s reasons, by stoking motivation and by finding satisfaction in not only the journey but the destination as well.

Choice Quotes

Intelligence without ambition is a bird without wings. –Salvador Dali

Man is a goal seeking animal. His life only has meaning if he is reaching out and striving for his goals. –Aristotle

Far away there in the sunshine are my highest aspirations. I may not reach them but I can look up and see their beauty, believe in them and try to follow them. –Louisa May Alcott

Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude. –Thomas Jefferson

I have no ambition in this world but one, and that is to be a fireman. The position may, in the eyes of some, appear to be a lowly one; but we who know the work which the fireman has to do believe that his is a noble calling. Our proudest moment is to save lives. Under the impulse of such thoughts, the nobility of the occupation thrills us and stimulates us to deeds of daring, even of supreme sacrifice. –Chief Edward F. Croker

A man’s worth is no greater than the worth of his ambitions. –Marcus Aurelius

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

He only earns his freedom and his life Who takes them every day by storm. –Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Choice Scripture

So then whether we are alive or away, we make it our ambition to please him. –2 Corinthians 5:9

[A]nd thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else’s foundation. Romans 15:20 ESV

Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you. –1 Thessalonians 4:11

I could wish that I myself were accursed — cut off from Christ — for the sake of my people, my fellow countrymen … Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God on behalf of my fellow Israelites is for their salvation. –Romans 9:3; 10:1

For I am afraid that somehow when I come I will not find you what I wish, and you will find me not what you wish. I am afraid that somehow there may be quarreling, jealousy, intense anger, selfish ambition, slander, gossip, arrogance, and disorder. –2 Corinthians 12:20

The former proclaim Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, because they think they can cause trouble for me in my imprisonment. –Philippians 1:17

… wrath and anger to those who live in selfish ambition and do not obey the truth but follow unrighteousness. –Romans 2:8

Instead of being motivated by selfish ambition or vanity, each of you should, in humility, be moved to treat one another as more important than yourself. –Philippians 2:3

Think, Choose, Do

1. On a scale of 1-10, rate your general level of ambition.
2. Ambition weighs more as a positive or negative quality in my mind. Why?
3. What are the three greatest desires of my life? How can I make them my ambition?

Your Turn

Tell me about your ambition below.

To subscribe to the UPLift list, an inspirational announcement-only ezine, send your request here. And get the book CHOOSE! that grew out of this series.

J. Randal Matheny

Be pithy.

What do you think?