Michael Sterling

Are You a Modern-Day Macbeth? 6 Questions to Assess Your Ambition


Most of us read Macbeth in high school. Macbeth’s ambition and corruption of power led to his tragic end. Macbeth, while fictional, serves as a cautionary lesson in human nature. Yet, we find real-life Macbeths among us. Are you a modern-day Macbeth? You may want to assess your ambition level.


Healthy vs. Unhealthy Ambition


There’s a fine-line between healthy ambition and the unhealthy version. Your professional achievements are often tied to your ambition. Ambition, when channeled correctly, is a motivator to success and professional satisfaction. Used incorrectly, ambition is destructive and can be your downfall.


Healthy ambition is shown to drive individuals to achieve higher levels of education, more prestigious jobs, greater income and a more satisfying life. It’s a force for good. How do you harness ambition to propel your success rather than your downfall? Six questions will guide you.


6 Questions to Assess Your Ambition Level


  1. To what extent will you take risk? A willingness to take risk and accept the results is a motivator. If you fear stepping out of your comfort zone, your ambition is lower than those who push through their fear to reach their goals. However, if you’re willing to take too large of risks – ones that endanger yourself and/or others i.e. financially or physically, that’s unhealthy ambition.
  2. Do You Talk About Your Goals? Ambitious people are goal-focused. If you work to set and strive to achieve goals without a need to discuss your efforts – that’s a sign of healthy ambition. Sharing your goals with others is shown to reduce success in achieving them. All talk. No action. This often leads to being disgruntled and toxic. It can also lead to pointing the finger of blame. This happens when you view others, who you involved in your goals, as the reason for your failure.
  3. Is Everything a Competition? Success is based on stretching yourself to reach your goals based on your own skills and expertise. You don’t compare yourself to others. Unhealthy ambition makes success a game where you measure yourself against others and must win at all cost – beating out even members of your own team.
  4. Do You Embrace New Ideas? Good ambition opens the mind. It’s a desire to learn and grow in new and different ways. Are you eager to ask questions and hold others’ knowledge in high regard? When driven by bad ambition, the opposite is true. Our own opinion, experience and thoughts are all that matter and we tend to steamroll over others. It’s my way or the highway.
  5. Do You Get Things Done?  Setting goals means nothing if you don’t put plans into action. You talk a big game, but don’t do what you say you will. If you don’t finish what you start, you leave yourself and those who depend on you – colleagues, family and friends – in the lurch and undermine the efforts of all.
  6. Do You Keep Good Company? Surrounding yourself with like-minded individuals with healthy ambition cultivates a culture of productivity and success. The same is true of the reverse. Be aware of the company you keep.


Authentic and Transparent


Today we talk a lot about being ‘authentic’ and ‘transparent. These terms are just a different way to say trustworthy, compassionate, grateful and kind. These aren’t new traits. Whatever we choose to call them, we value genuine, honest leaders.


By asking yourself the six questions above, you’ll have the tools to insure you have the right level of ambition to achieve the success you desire.


As a career coach and recruiter, exclusive to public accounting, I help professionals reach their full potential and attain success. Connect with me on LinkedIn.


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