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Ambition vs. Goal: What's the Difference?

Edited by Harlon Moss || By Janet White || Updated on November 11, 2023
Ambition is a strong desire to achieve something, often requiring determination and hard work, while a goal is a specific target or objective to be achieved.

Key Differences

Ambition refers to a person's inner drive and determination to achieve success, often in a broad, long-term sense. Goals, on the other hand, are specific objectives or targets that one sets to achieve, which can be steps towards fulfilling an ambition.
Ambition is typically more abstract and far-reaching, representing an individual's aspirations and desires, like becoming a leader in their field. Goals are concrete, measurable, and have a defined timeframe, such as completing a degree or reaching a sales target.
While ambition drives a person and gives direction to their efforts, goals provide clear milestones and a roadmap to achieve that ambition. Goals can change and evolve, but ambition usually remains constant, guiding overall life or career trajectories.
Ambition often requires a sustained effort and long-term commitment, reflecting a person's passion and perseverance. Goals, while also requiring commitment, are more immediate and can be achieved in the shorter term, leading to a sense of accomplishment.
Ambition can exist without specific goals, as a general desire for success or achievement. However, setting goals is a practical way to channel ambition into actionable steps and tangible results.

Comparison Chart


A strong desire to achieve success or distinction
A specific objective or target to be achieved


Abstract, broad, long-term
Concrete, measurable, short-term or long-term


Drives and motivates individuals
Provides specific milestones and a roadmap


Ambition to become a successful entrepreneur
Goal to start a business within the next year

Measurement of Success

More subjective, based on personal fulfillment and growth
More objective, based on achieving set targets

Ambition and Goal Definitions


Ambition is a strong desire and determination to achieve success.
Her ambition is to become a world-renowned scientist.


Goals are concrete objectives people aim to accomplish.
She set a goal to save a certain amount of money each month.


Ambition can be a driving force behind one's actions and decisions.
His ambition led him to take challenging but rewarding projects.


Goals provide direction and focus for efforts and planning.
Setting clear goals helped him succeed in his business venture.


Ambition is often associated with achieving high levels of distinction.
She has the ambition to climb to the top of her profession.


A goal is a specific, often measurable target set to be achieved.
His goal is to run a marathon in under four hours.


Ambition can reflect a person's aspirations in their career or life.
His ambition drove him to pursue advanced studies in his field.


A goal can be a short-term or long-term achievement.
Their immediate goal is to improve customer satisfaction.


Ambition is about setting high standards and goals for oneself.
Her ambition inspired others to strive for excellence.


A goal is a milestone or endpoint in one’s personal or professional journey.
Graduating with honors was a major goal for her.


An eager or strong desire to achieve something, such as fame or power.


The object toward which an endeavor is directed; an end.


The object or goal desired
Her ambition is the presidency.


A structure or area into which players endeavor to propel a ball or puck in order to score points.


Desire for exertion or activity; energy
Had no ambition to go dancing.


A play or shot that sends a ball or puck into or through the goal.


Eager or inordinate desire for some object that confers distinction, as preferment, honor, superiority, political power, or fame; desire to distinguish one's self from other people.
My son, John, wants to be a firefighter very much. He has a lot of ambition.


(countable) An object of an ardent desire.
My ambition is to own a helicopter.


A desire, as in (sense 1), for another person to achieve these things.


(uncountable) A personal quality similar to motivation, not necessarily tied to a single goal.


(obsolete) The act of going about to solicit or obtain an office, or any other object of desire; canvassing.


To seek after ambitiously or eagerly; to covet.


The act of going about to solicit or obtain an office, or any other object of desire; canvassing.
[I] used no ambition to commend my deeds.


An eager, and sometimes an inordinate, desire for preferment, honor, superiority, power, or the attainment of something.
Cromwell, I charge thee, fling a way ambition:By that sin fell the angels.
The pitiful ambition of possessing five or six thousand more acres.


To seek after ambitiously or eagerly; to covet.
Pausanias, ambitioning the sovereignty of Greece, bargains with Xerxes for his daughter in marriage.


A cherished desire;
His ambition is to own his own business


A strong drive for success


Have as one's ambition


Can ambition exist without goals?

Yes, ambition can exist as a general desire for success without specific goals.

Is ambition always career-related?

No, ambition can relate to various aspects of life, not just career.

How do goals support ambition?

Goals provide tangible steps and milestones towards realizing an ambition.

How specific should a goal be?

Goals should be as specific as possible to provide clear direction.

What is ambition?

Ambition is a strong desire to achieve success or make significant achievements.

What is a goal?

A goal is a specific target or objective set to be accomplished.

Can goals change over time?

Yes, goals can evolve based on changing circumstances or new insights.

Is ambition a positive trait?

Generally, ambition is viewed positively as it drives personal and professional growth.

Can someone have multiple ambitions?

Yes, it’s common for individuals to have multiple ambitions in different areas of life.

Is ambition linked to motivation?

Yes, ambition is a key factor in motivating individuals to strive for success.

How can ambition be nurtured?

Ambition can be nurtured by setting challenges, seeking inspiration, and continuous learning.

What drives a person's ambition?

A person's ambition is often driven by their values, interests, and desire for achievement.

Is it okay to revise goals?

Yes, revising goals is often necessary to stay aligned with one’s current situation and capabilities.

How does ambition influence decision-making?

Ambition can influence decision-making by prioritizing actions that align with long-term success.

Do goals require a timeline?

Setting a timeline helps make goals more concrete and achievable.

How do you track progress towards a goal?

Progress can be tracked through milestones, regular reviews, and self-assessment.

Can goals be non-measurable?

While measurable goals are preferred, some goals can be more qualitative.

What’s the difference between a dream and a goal?

A dream is a broader aspiration, while a goal is a specific, actionable target within reach.

Can ambition lead to stress?

If not managed well, ambition can lead to stress or burnout.

Are short-term goals important?

Short-term goals are important as they provide immediate direction and a sense of achievement.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.

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