Achievement of your ambitions requires sustained motivation. So, if your motivation level regularly waxes and wanes, you’ll make slow and inconsistent progress toward your goals. However, a consistently high level of motivation means you can move quickly and consistently toward whatever you aspire to have or do.
So, how can you sustain your motivation long term?
You must understand how ambition and motivation work together and what other elements, such as purpose and inspiration, create sustained motivation levels.
Defining ambition and Motivation
Let’s start by looking at what the words “ambition” and “motivation” mean.
First, ambition is defined as a strong desire to do or achieve something. (If you don’t like the word ambition, since it sometimes has negative connotations, use aspiration instead.) So it’s your sense of wanting something and the determination to succeed at having it.
Second, motivation is the reason or reasons one has for acting or behaving in a particular way. So you might say it is the “why” behind your actions.
Ambition is the seed; motivation is the fertilizer that helps the seed grow.
What Comes First—Ambition or Motivation?
So which one comes first—ambition or motivation? Typically, you feel motivated when you have ambition—a burning desire. Without ambition, it can feel challenging to get moving and keep moving toward a goal.
However, some people reverse the process. In this case, you feel ambitious when you are motivated. Basically, your reason or purpose drives you to create goals and dreams and then take actions that help you achieve them.
A person with ambition has goals and dreams; they want to achieve something. And their ambitions are always tied to a reason for creating what they desire. Therefore, they feel motivated.
On the other hand, a motivated person is tied to the reason for having goals and dreams in the first place. When those reasons are personally meaningful, they develop ambitions—ways to do or have the things that support their sense of purpose.
Yet, even an ambitious person might find their motivation level decreasing over time. And the same goes for the motivated person, whose motivation level may fall if their goal loses meaning.
Identity Plays a Role
Whether ambition or motivation comes first for you, one thing will keep your motivation level high: your identity. Your identity is who you are being at any given moment. And you can choose your identity.
Choose to be an ambitious person. You will feel consistently motivated to take the necessary action to have or do what you desire. In other words, your identity—I am ambitious—leads to sustained motivation.
And, if you choose to be a motivated person, you will find yourself feeling ambitious. Your identity—I am motivated—will cause you to want to do or achieve meaningful things and support your sense of purpose. You will be much more likely to follow through consistently than someone who is only ambitious.
Be a Person Who Can Remain Motivated
However, you don’t need to be an ambitious or motivated person to find yourself motivated consistently. You need only be a person with your specific ambition.
When you are a person who can be, do, or have what you want, you will have the motivation to do the things necessary to realize that desire. Your motivation will come directly from your identity.
For instance, if you are a person who runs marathons, you feel consistently motivated to prep for and run in marathons. Your ambition is to run marathons. Your identity is “marathon runner.” And you have the motivation to run long distances consistently because marathon runners prepare for and run marathons.
If you want to find a way to reduce greenhouse gases, you will do whatever it takes—for as long as it takes—to find this solution. Why? You know this solution will make it possible for future generations to thrive on Earth. And that’s important to you. You identify as an activist or inventor, for instance.
As you can see, your ambition simply and congruently flows out of your identity:
I am a person who does (motivation) ____ so I can achieve (ambition) ____.
You can also say it this way:
I want to achieve (ambition) ____ because (motivation) ____; therefore, I am a person who (identity) ____.
Purpose is the Reason for Ambition
But let’s not forget the role of purpose when it comes to sustained motivation. Purpose, after all, is the reason for which something is done or created or for which something exists. It is the parent to motivation.
Purpose is your Big Why. It’s the reason you set a goal and take action to achieve it in the first place. Thus, ambition arises from purpose, and motivation follows closely on its heels.
The Role of Inspiration in Sustained Motivation
But you might be wondering where inspiration comes in. Inspiration is defined as the process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially to do something creative. It’s a sudden brilliant, creative, or timely idea.
Sometimes you get inspired. The light-bulb moment results in an idea, goal, or aspiration, which motivates you.
Yet, too often, people wait for inspiration before taking action. They have no ambition or motivation without inspiration. As you get clear on your purpose, you feel inspired to achieve it. Your inspiration leads to ambition. And, maybe more than any other factor, purpose increases your motivation and helps sustain it.
I do almost everything consistently when my inspiration arises out of my purpose. The alignment with my purpose creates within me ambition—a desire to achieve something. And from that ambition comes motivation—a solid reason to take action toward reaching my goal. Thus, ambition and motivation help me fulfill my purpose—the reason I am doing what I’m doing.
Purpose Aligns with Identity
And here’s where identity comes back into play. You can sustain your motivation when your purpose is aligned with your identity. When that happens, purpose pushes you to be a person who has ambition and motivation.
So, for example, if my purpose is to make a positive and meaningful difference with my words, I might choose to become an author or a speaker (identity).
My ideas (inspiration) for books or talks (ambition) will arise from the alignment between purpose and identity. Plus, my identity as an author or speaker provides a reason (motivation) to write and publish books or give speeches (ambition) as a way to fulfill my purpose as an author or speaker (identity).
Imagine yourself having great clarity of purpose. So you set a goal that aligns with your purpose, and then you feel motivated to pursue it. And you probably feel inspired…you have ideas galore about how to achieve that goal, right? And all of this flows naturally out of identity—who you are being.
By being a person with a strong sense of purpose and related ambitions, you will sustain your motivation long term toward fulfilling your purpose and realizing your goals and dreams.
As a writer, when I lose sight of my identity or purpose, my ambition stops having meaning for me. As a result, I don’t feel motivated. Conversely, when I feel consistently motivated to write, my identity and ambitions are aligned with my purpose.
6 Steps to Sustained Motivation
If you want sustained motivation, so you achieve your goals, you need more than just theory. So, here are six steps that will help you develop higher levels of consistent motivation over time.
1. Determine your purpose—your Big Why. What do you want to accomplish in this lifetime (or this year or month)? Why is that meaningful to you?
2. Determine your level of inspiration. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest, how inspired are you to work toward your purpose? Does your purpose generate ideas and dreams?
3. Identify your ambition. Allow your inspiration to provide you with ideas, goals, and dreams. Which one is aligned with your purpose or motivates you?
4. Determine your level of motivation for the ambition you identified. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest, how much personal meaning does the goal or dream hold? Is your motivation high or low, consistent or inconsistent? What slows you down as you work toward your ambition or causes your motivation level to decline?
5. Consider how your ambition helps you fulfill your purpose. Is your ambition “on purpose” or aligned with your purpose? Can you make it more aligned?
6. Decide who you need to be to sustain your motivation. What identity—what type of person—would consistently work toward the ambition you identified? How can you become that person—right now? How would you have to show up daily to adopt that identity?
Be, Do, Have
When you have taken the five steps above, complete these statements by filling in the blanks:
I am a person who (identity) ____. I do (action)____ because (reason/motivation) _____. As a result, I create (ambition) _____.
Daily remind yourself of who you are BEing. Your identity is that of a person who can achieve the purpose and goal you identified. You are a person who will do what is necessary to have what you desire. As such, you will have sustained motivation for your ambition.
It’s challenging to achieve your goals and reach your dreams without sustained motivation. But now, you have a greater awareness of how to consistently feel motivated by your ambitions.
Do you struggle to maintain a sustainable level of motivation? Tell me in a comment below. And please share this post with someone who might benefit from it. Also, consider joining the Inspired Creator Community, where this topic is discussed in depth.
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