How To Discover Our Ambitions

When we speak about self-knowledge, we’re alluding to a particular kind of knowledge – generally of an emotional or psychological kind. There are many ways in which a shortfall of self-knowledge is an obstacle to flourishing around work.We only have a few short years in which to come up with a convincing answer about what we want to do with our lives. Then, wherever we are in the thought-process, we have to jump into a job in order to have enough money to survive or appease society’s demands for our productivity.Without self-knowledge, we are too vague about our ambitions; we don’t know what to do with our lives and – because money tends to be such an urgent priority – we lock ourselves into a cage from which it may take decades to emerge.

When thinking about aspirations, hopes and what it would be good to do, there’s a very strong tendency to end up saying things like:

  1. I want to help other people

  2. I want to be creative

  3. I want to do something that matters

The statements might be very true and the sentiments admirable. The problem with them is that they are vague. They don’t point in any particular direction: they don’t guide action or do much to help make a decision. Vagueness is a sign of the difficulty we have around self-knowledge. It shows that in some important aspect of life we don’t yet know ourselves very well. 

So, how do we improve self-knowledge around ambitions? The key here is being specific. 


  1. Name some people you envy and or admire – however grand and implausible. he point isn’t that you necessarily want to be them or just like them. It’s that there is something about them that you want to learn from.
  2. Moving from person to trait. Analyse what it is about them that you admire… 
  3. How could that quality be more present in your lie, and what else can be done with it


Discover more tips for self-understanding in our class on Purpose.

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