The stresses that come with ambition are enough to put many off from reaching for the stars, but high achievement motivation confers benefits even if you don't reach your ultimate goals. Striving for a goal that seems just out of reach produces social and psychological benefits similar to that of a meditative tranquility. High achievement motivation individuals constantly push themselves to attain even greater success. Despite their successes or failures, simply trying makes them stronger.
Achieving something difficult requires intense concentration. Concentrating at such a high level facilitates a unique psychological state called flow. Flow was first described by Hungarian psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi as a state of intense concentration in which a person's senses of ego, time and self-consciousness vanish. Flow confers numerous physiological and psychological benefits. People in flow are not afraid to make mistakes and are, therefore, more likely to try something creative or new. Flow reduces many physiological stress indicators, including blood pressure. People with high achievement motivation choose difficult tasks and activities that easily facilitate flow.
In a study published in the December 2010 issue of the "Journal of Vocational Behavior," psychiatrist Julie Ashby and colleagues found that people with high achievement motivation are independent and self-sufficient, believing that effort and skill determine results. The study's findings suggested that high achievement motivation individuals are more influential than their less-motivated counterparts, and rarely experience emotional breakdowns under high-stress circumstances. Instead, high achievement motivation individuals thrive in such situations. Dr. Ashby found that tenacity, persistence and diligence are the primary personality traits of people with high achievement motivation. While these individuals can sometimes lead very stressful lives due to the amount of pressure they put on themselves, they also experience much joy and satisfaction from their achievements.
Dr. Ashby reported that high achievement motivation individuals earn more over a lifetime than lower achievers. Those highly motivated for achievement perform well in competitive fields such as law, business and entertainment. Even in service-oriented fields such as teaching or nursing, high achievement motivation individuals tend to outperform their less-motivated colleagues. They set personal goals that stretch them just beyond their boundaries. This goal-setting strategy provides a mechanism for constant self-improvement.
According to psychology professor Gilbert Brim, high achievement motivation individuals should seek mental balance by meeting their non-achievement needs. In a January 2010 report in "Psychology Today," Dr. Grim notes that those motivated exclusively by achievement run the risk of becoming socially isolated. He encourages high achievement motivation individuals to pay attention to their other needs, including the need for safety, friendship, creative expression and love. High achievement motivation individuals should surround themselves with people working on goals similar to their own. Working with others in a community helps these individuals meet some of their other motivation needs, such as building sustainable and meaningful relationships.
- "Optimal Experience: Psychological Studies of Flow in Consciousness"; Mihály Csíkszentmihály; 1992
- "Psychology Today"; Ambition; Gilbert Brim; January 2011
- "Journal of Vocational Behavior"; Career Success: The Role of Teenage Career Aspirations, Ambition Value and Gender in Predicting Adult Social Status and Earnings; Julie Ashby, et. al.; December 2010