Some mornings you wake up refreshed from an impressive eight hours of shut-eye, and you don’t even need coffee to keep going. You’re jazzed by your current project, you’re ready to run faster in your bootcamp class — and you’ll even pick up dinner without stressing.
Other times, everything feels like a chore. You hit snooze, you get an extra shot of espresso — and you’re still aimlessly surfing on Facebook when you should be filing a report. Ambition is one of those funny things that we all need to be successful — but it ebbs and flows, depending on our mood, our energy and the timing in our life.
Summer is a special opportunity to supercharge this all-important muscle and value, since a slower season allows more time to double-down and focus. Most people innately have some sort of drive, but they probably don’t know how to tap into it.
As career coach Emeline Roissetter explains, ambition is simply the feeling of wanting more, wanting to better ourselves, our lives and our relationships with other people.
“It is the desire to achieve, to succeed and to make our dreams come true. It is the fire inside us that keeps us focused and motivated. Ambition is driving our passions, our hard work and our determination to achieve personal and professional goals,” Roissetter says.
Here’s how to engage your ambition right now:
1. Create a vision board
Remember when you were in high school and you would cover your notebooks with magazine clippings? Or when you were saving every last penny to cross the pond to Europe, did you hang images of Italy, Spain and France around your home?
There’s power found in visualization, and creating a vision board to depict your hopes and dreams is a powerful tool in fueling ambition.
As licensed psychologist Dr. Sarah Schewitz explains, the process of finding words and pictures that represent your goals is exciting and it solidified what it will look like and feel like when you accomplish them.
“The experience of doing this increases ambition and excitement as does looking at it daily and remembering what you’re working for,” she says.
Just make sure your vision board, is well, visible! You want to catch a glimpse of it throughout your routine.
2. Read or listen to books and podcasts
Sure, your best friend is your go-to source for, well, everything. And though their wisdom shouldn’t be discounted, a variety of voices and perspectives can help you think more critically and inspire you to greatness.
Roissetter says books and podcasts provide new methods of thinking and tools to become more organized, intentional and strategic.
“Be it self-development books, biographies, success stories or fictional stories, and so on, you will get inspired to regain control of your life,” she raves.
3. Break larger goals into smaller ones
Most people tend to think big picture, fantasizing about what they hope their life will be in five years. What many forget are the day-to-day achievements and the diligence that goes into making that lifestyle a reality.
Dr. Schewitz says that while it isn’t quite as exciting to celebrate bite-sized wins, this practice actually stimulates your confidence. How come? You’re checking things off your to-do list — which makes you feel stellar about yourself.
“If you break your goals down into small, achievable steps, you are much more likely to experience success in accomplishing those small steps,” she explains. “Continued success over time builds your motivation and ambition to tackle the bigger things as well.”
4. Really, really think…
…about what you want. And why you want it. Why it matters to you. What will make you happy, appreciated and fulfilled.
Too often, we go through the motions of life without taking a much-needed “pause” to understand what’s at the core of our dreams.
Psychotherapist and author Dr. Jane Greer says giving yourself permission to reconsider, think critically and introspectively will help your ambition to take on a new meaning. It also allows you to create a blueprint with actionable steps — instead of taking a frantic, last-minute scrambling approach.
“Give yourself the leeway to take your time and plan each step you need to take to reach your goa,” she stresses.
Roissetter says exposing yourself to new ways of thinking, eating and living will challenge your vision of the world — and expand your perspective. Travel is the perfect way to do that.
“Surround yourself with new people and new environments, this will stretch your mind and make space for new ideas and solutions,” she continues. “You will come back feeling refreshed with a renewed level of energy and drive. In addition, travels allow you to see your own life from a different perspective and reflect on what truly matters to you.”
6. Chat with someone you admire
As Roissetter puts it: whatever your goal is, chances are, someone in your area has achieved it– or is closer than you are to making it happen.
If you want to launch your own company, seek the advice of an entrepreneur in a similar field. If you want to meet a life partner, don’t ask for advice from your single friends — but from your taken ones. You want to finally drop weight you’ve been hanging onto? Seek wisdom from a nutritionist or a trainer. Those who are ahead of you are your best bets for provoking, motivating candor.
“Get in touch with them and secure a phone call or a coffee to hear more about their journey and pick their brains on your projects. They will open you up to new ideas, new paths and new connections,” Roissetter shares. “Finding a mentor is a key part in reaching success.”
7. Decide on a big reward
If you’re a parent, you know an incentive is a game-changer in, well, everything. Or, if you manage employees, giving them a reward at the end of a big project will make them feel more appreciated and valued in the office. Why not apply the same logic to the goals you set for yourself?
Transformational coach and author Christy Whitman says whether it’s a weekend trip, a special evening out or a new outfit, having something to look forward will help you remain focused.
“Ambition is both intrinsically and extrinsically motivated, meaning we have internal and external reasons for wanting to create a particular result. The first two steps support you in motivating yourself from within; the final step provides external incentive,” she explains. “Place a picture or written description of your reward somewhere you’ll see it often. It will serve as a focal point and keep you moving forward.”