Because we are born into this world with wildly varying sets of circumstances, our criteria for success can be just as disparate. The child of a state leader may feel that the bar has been raised so high that even assuming their parent’s office would not be enough to match their ambitions, while a person born into poverty may feel that simply acquiring a steady means of employment is an unadulterated triumph. On the other hand, there are countless examples of individuals who have seemed to refuse any recognition of their current station in life, so stratospheric are their aspirations.
To see how our personality traits may correlate with our desire for success, however we define it, we asked our community readers whether they agreed or disagreed with the statement, “You are very ambitious.” Which personality types see themselves as being the most ambitious? The chart below gives us a type-by-type breakdown:
Although there were significant differences between many trait pairings, the biggest gaps could be observed between Extraverts and Introverts (85% vs. 67% agreeing, respectively) and between Intuitive and Observant personality types (81% vs. 70%). Let’s satisfy some of our own ambitions by exploring this further:
Analysts (85% agreeing)
Of all the roles, Analysts were the ones most likely to agree with the statement “You are very ambitious.” As personality types who often pride themselves on their heterodox thinking and ability to conquer problems that leave others at a loss, Analysts may feel destined for greatness long before they have the accomplishments to back it up.
Assertive Commanders (ENTJ-A) agreed the most (95%). Like all Analysts, Commanders have the far-reaching imagination needed to set truly ambitious goals, with the added advantage of a challenge-based, even combative worldview that enables them to strive against the odds, and the opposition.
Diplomats and Sentinels (79% and 74%)
Diplomats and Sentinels were somewhat less likely to feel the tug of ambition, but were far from reporting themselves unambitious. The empathetic nature and boundless imagination of Diplomats may make it easy to assume the problems of others as their own, no matter the scale, compelling many Diplomats to take on some of the most fundamental issues that plague humanity: disease, poverty, war. And while Sentinels may have more practical objectives – becoming a civic leader or excelling within their organizations, for example – their steadfast work ethic and desire to contribute to their communities may be an equally fertile ground for ambition.
Lastly, 64% of Explorers considered themselves to be markedly ambitious. As pragmatic, down-to-earth types, Explorers may distrust excessive ambition as unrealistic, preferring to focus on immediate actions rather than overarching goals. These personality types are often so caught up in the moments that make up their lives that they forget to look ahead and set ambitious goals. Their presence and passion can certainly lead to fantastic successes; they’re just less likely to plan those successes in advance.
Ambition also comes paired with attention – success is a strong draw for an audience. While Entrepreneurs (ESTP) and Entertainers (ESFP) may thrive on this, Turbulent Adventurers (ISFP-T) routinely rank as the least likely to want to be noticed, especially by a crowd. It’s no surprise then, that they agreed least of any type, at 44%.
People Mastery and Social Engagement (86% and 84% agreeing, respectively)
People Mastery and Social Engagement were the Strategies most likely to agree with the statement “You are very ambitious.” The exuberance that characterizes many Extraverted personalities may be at work here, as their excess energy translates to the drive for achievement. Extraverts are also more attuned to their external environments; this sense of ambition, for some types at least, may be less a matter of intrinsic motivation, and more an effort to impress. Social status is deeply important to many personality types, and ambition is one way of demonstrating the ability to succeed.
Confident Individualism and Constant Improvement (70% and 66%)
Conversely, the more Introverted Confident Individualism and Constant Improvement Strategies were significantly less likely to see themselves as particularly ambitious. Although there are innumerable examples of Introverts who have achieved the heights of success in every field, these Strategies may be less enthusiastic, and more circumspect, in how they realize their ambitions. It may also be that we’ve become accustomed to thinking of ambition as an external demonstration. But solitude and meditation in the pursuit of inner peace and enlightenment could certainly be considered an ambitious goal – though perhaps one that itself rejects the notion of ambition.
Although ambition is a form of desire, it is closely associated with taking action. As opposed to a dream, which one may idly possess, having an ambition connotes the need to fulfill it. It also tends to lead to a narrow focus, the kind that precludes other endeavors.
For personality types like Explorers, who tend to have more versatile notions of success, ambition may be too inflexible for their tastes, too distracting from the world before them. Conversely, Analysts may feel that their lives have purpose only in the pursuit of the sublime and that having no ambition is worse than even the most ignominious failure.