Motivation and ambition, symptoms of suffering

Acharya Prashant
7 min readJun 20, 2021

The following is an excerpt from a samvaad (dialogue) session with Acharya Prashant.

Questioner (Q): Sir, how to stay motivated and ambitious even after repeated failures in life?

Acharya Prashant (AP): Our friend is asking that how to stay motivated and ambitious even after repeated failures.

Do you understand what is ambition? Do you understand what is motivation? Do you understand what is failure?

What is motivation? What is meant by ‘motive’?

Motive means greed. Motive means, ‘I want to get something.’

The same is with ambition. Ambition is an enhanced form of motive. ‘I want to get more and more.’ That is ambition. Be it motive or be it ambition one thing is certain, you are saying that “I want to get something, that I want to achieve something.” I can understand that the voices around you have been constantly telling you that you must get something, that you are incomplete, that there is something missing in you, there is something wrong in you, and you must make up for it by obtaining a particular degree, a particular job, certain respectability.

You have been constantly told that there is something incomplete, that you are unworthy. From that feeling arises a sense of desire, a sense of greed and ambition. You say that “Because there is something lacking in me so I want to achieve it.”

“A part of me is missing. I am not yet worthy. I am not good enough so I must go and get it.” Obviously, when you will go and get it, it takes time. So, all your motivation and ambition takes you to the future. It says that right now you are not alright, right now you are just not alright, you must work hard so that in future you must get something. That is the logic of ambition. What does ambition say? You are not alright. “Work hard, go, attain, win, loot, grasp, earn!” Whichever word you use, one thing is certain, that something is missing in you.

If something is missing in me right now, ambition is telling me that the future will provide the treatment, that the future will provide a remedy, then it is certain that right now I will keep suffering. I am feeling incomplete right now. Ambition is saying that if you get that ‘A’, you will be happy two…