As I creep towards 40, I often think how my life would have been different if I’d had no ambition.
I know if I hadn’t been driven in my twenties knowing I was capable of so much more that I would probably still be working in the same dead-end job, probably single with no prospects or interests.
My ambition is something I take for granted – I’ve just assumed everyone who is a human has one, despite knowing people who don’t have any ambition except to take life as it comes.
Recently this Reddit thread about having no ambition took my interest:
This got me thinking – what advice do you give someone starting from a position of nothing, who asks you – what should they do if they have no ambition in life?
The answer: Make finding an ambition, your ambition.
To do this assess your current situation, writing down every single desire (no matter how wild it seems), then analyse your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to achieving these.
From this information you should then see what appeals the most and set some goals around it.
You can continue your journey of discovery, utilising your personal network to see what support they give you, carry out continued research to assist in your growth, and keep taking daily, consistent action.
Also, you need to work on your mindset – seek professional support to help you with this, and work on being more resilient, confident and assertive; develop compassion to yourself, show gratitude, and work on your motivation so you are more prepared for life.
If you feel you have no ambition for life, and have no idea what you want, I can confidently argue that if you’re seeking answers amongst friends, a Reddit Self-Improvement group, or you’ve stumbled through searching on Google and found this article, then you must have some sort of ambition.
A person who truly has no ambition, direction or goals, wouldn’t even have the self-awareness, to think about asking:
“What do I do if I have no ambition in life?”
Whatever you find in your search, be prepared to do the work, so you can find some sort of direction where you want to take your life.
When you have nothing…
If you’re in a position where you have nothing – no ambition, no support network, no job, no education, the best thing you can do is start.
Assess your SWOT
Wherever you are in life, it’s a good idea to carry out a SWOT analysis.
SWOT is a technique used by businesses to analyse and assess their position and make improvements, while managing the threats, but can also be used by an individual to take an in-depth look into their personal situation. (Definition from Mind Tools).
To carry out a SWOT, you need to assess your:
Strengths: What are you good at? How can you utilise these?
Weaknesses: What are you not so good at? How can you work on/cover these up?
Opportunities: What is going on in your world that is available for you to take advantage of?
Threats: What is going on in your world that could potentially damage your efforts?
When carrying out this exercise note that some things can be a positive and a negative – for example your family can be an opportunity because they provide you with time/money/security to pursue your goals, but they could also be a threat if they don’t support you and believe in your desired end goal(s).
As a general tip when carrying out a SWOT analysis remember Strengths and Weakness are internal to you, Opportunities/Threats are external.
Check out this link from Business New Daily, which contains further advice on completing a SWOT.
When you’ve identified your SWOT, you can set goals based around these.
Getting ‘something’ from nothing
I just wanted to comment on how to get something when you have nothing:
Using your network
If you have family, see what support they can give you.
If you are religious and actively practice at a place of worship see if there is anyone who can offer advice, a job, or a character reference.
These are just some example, by doing the SWOT analysis right, hopefully you’ve identified a few Opportunities of groups in your network who maybe able to help you.
Getting a job/earning money
The biggest challenge of the job market is getting into your first job.
Volunteering can be a route to gaining skills, though if you go down this route, you want to make sure you see some payoff (getting paid work).
If you have no qualifications, then there is lots of jobs you can apply for – you’ll have to accept that these maybe low-paid and require menial work – view this as a step in the ladder while you work on growing your life.
Also brush up your CV and application skills, depending on the country you live in there are training course you can utilise to develop these (In the UK for example, the Job Centre can set you up), or you can use the internet to access CV templates and read 1000’s articles online to help you.
When applying for jobs recognise the skills you do have – from the Reddit example I can see the posters has had responsibility for caring and raising their siblings. Think about how you utilise these strengths when applying for jobs to show you are someone dependable who can be relied on.
Finally, to earn some money, if you have the time and flexibility you could work on a side hustle. This article from The Entrepreneur shares some inspiration for low/no cost side hustles.
Getting an education
Depending on the country you live, if you have no qualifications, you can get support to attend training. In the UK you’ll commonly find that you can get courses up to level 2 for free, if you don’t already have any of these qualifications.
And wherever you are in life, if you have access to the Internet, you can do free online courses. Although a lot of these don’t have certification (unless you pay), they can help boost your knowledge and skills.
Personal growth from nothing…
If you are coming from a place where you having nothing, along with searching for a job I recommend taking up hobbies and interests, making sure to workout, learn some useful life skills like driving, DIY and how to look after yourself. These will all help with your health, wellbeing and independence.
If your lack of ambition is getting you down, then I recommended seeking professional support.
There are small things you can do personally to work on your mindset.
Some of this will be gained as you set and complete goals, the action of working over something for a sustained period of time where you may fail constantly will naturally question your abilities, so when you actually manage to get there your whole world view is challenged, and you become more confident in yourself ready to pursue the next challenge.
But mindset also requires active direct work to address issues – this can be done through studying texts, a book like The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is a great starting point, and I often go back to listening to this old talk from Earl Nightingale on the Law of Attraction, as a way to focus my mind:
Finally, set personal goals around developing your mindset. As some initial inspiration try these areas:
Resilience is the ability to recover quickly from difficulties – a skill that you’re going to need if you’re going to get in the habit of setting goals, because when you set these objectives – you’ll fail often, they might take longer than intended, or your dreams may change, or just not work out.
Your resilience will be important to help you bounce back.
I couldn’t help notice in the Reddit post that inspired this article, how the poster would talk about themselves in a negative manner. They use terms like
“Becoming a burden…”
“Have no real ambitions…”
“There is no point me being alive…”
In life the biggest driver to your personal success, will be yourself – so if you have a negative voice inside your head that constantly sees yourself as doing no good, then you’re going to experience a daily hinderance to your goals.
Get in the habit of talking to yourself with love and compassion – when you fail, don’t call yourself “stupid”, just say “At least I tried, I’ll do better next time…”
Confidence / Assertiveness
Developing your confidence will help you in all aspects of your life, from how you walk down the street, to how you present yourself in social situations. So, it’s a worthwhile investment to do activities that will empower you.
Assertiveness is being able to express ourselves in a respectful, but forceful way. People who lack assertiveness can range from being pushovers letting people take what they want, to being prone to aggressiveness.
Ambition can relate to assertiveness, because if there is something you want, and someone tells you you can’t do that because they have other ideas, assertiveness will help you deal with these types of people.
When you’re in a position of never working, and have no ambition, the motivation to do even the simplest things that 99% take for granted like getting out of bed can be a challenge.
You need to establish meaning for getting up in the morning – set goals, workout, eat healthy, strive for a desirable future.
Related: How Confident People Stay Motivated
Finally, for a greater mindset practice gratitude every day. Write it down on a piece of paper – if you struggle for time, just do it in your head, dedicating 10 minutes to think about:
- What good things do I have in my life (my health, people who love me, people available to help me, security, access to a first world education/benefits system…)
- Look at where I am now, look at where I’ve come from (see how far you’ve grown as a person)
Related: 3 Reasons to Be Grateful
If you feel you have no ambition in life, then I would recommend focusing on finding some meaning in life. I recommend reading the book Man’s Search For Meaning, by Viktor Frankl – this puts a lot of things in perspective, and can teach you to find meaning from the struggles you’ve experienced in life.
If you have no job, and no education, then I would make your first priority finding a way to pay the bills – it doesn’t have to be your “dream job”, just something to start you off and support you in your self-improvement.
As some final tips, remember:
- Your age is a number and is irrelevant (stop saying you are too old to do something).
- How well your siblings, friends, or some random people on the Internet are doing is irrelevant (stop comparing yourself to others focus on your own progression).
- Focus on gradual improvement rather than expecting overnight success.
- There is no such thing as being “behind in life” (we all have our separate paths to go on).
- Look after your health and wellbeing.
- Set some goals to establish a direction to go in.
- It’s okay for your goals to change as your progress, this is part of the growth process.
- Keep in mind your dependents – rather than seeing them as a hinderance to your progress, see them as a motivation to keep getting better every day!
- Define your own measure of success.
- Keep working!
I hope that this post has been of some value, please do like, comment and share so that it can help someone else.
Wishing you the best in your success.
James @Perfect Manifesto.