Are Ambition And Dream The Same?

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If you’ve ever had ambition, you started with a dream. However, the same cannot be true when reversed. Many people mistake the goal-oriented concepts of ‘ambition’ and ‘dreams’ as being the same thing. However, the implications of their characteristics are wildly different and should not be confused.

Are ambition and dream the same? Certainly not. Although related to one’s goals, your dream is something idle and whimsical, while your ambition is concentrated in dedicated work. You may frivolously daydream about a goal, but that will not make it real. Only ambition combined with luck and planning can achieve real success.

Use this quick read to breakdown the stigmas behind each of these popularly (and potentially overused) terms. We will offer tips for understanding their weight, how to work backward from your goal, and how to make your dreams into an actionable cause of ambition.

Ambition vs. Dream

You can easily have ambition, but it tends to not be as casually light-hearted as dreaming. Dreaming lacks purpose.

To offer the specificities, Merriam Webster’s Dictionary defines each of these as:

Ambition – “An ardent desire for rank, fame, or power. The desire to achieve a particular end.”

Dream (unrelated to sleeping) – “to indulge in daydreams or fantasies, to imagine and consider as a possibility, to pass (time) in reverie or inaction.”

Are Ambition And Dream The Same?


The similarities between these definitions are that BOTH AMBITIONS AND DREAMS ARE:

  • rooted in goals.
  • forward-thinking and planning-oriented.
  • considering a particular possibility or outcome in one’s life.

Why They Are Different

Although they say, ‘dreaming is doing,’ we’re going to go ahead and disagree in this case.

The differences between these definitions are:


Ambitions are defined using the term ‘ardent,’ which means:

  • Passionate
  • Zealous
  • Eager

While each term revolves around desire, ‘ambition’ is the only definition that includes an action-word – To achieve.


Dreaming is described using terms such as, ‘indulgent,’ with defining adjectives of:

  • Fantasies
  • Imagination
  • Consideration
  • Passing time
  • Reverie (contemplation)
  • And most importantly – Inaction

The core difference being that ambition is the only term within these two classifications that entails any action whatsoever.

Overall Verdict & How to Use It

No, ambitions and dreaming are not the same. But it will take both of them to make your dreams become goals, and your goals become a reality.

Dreams tend to be very broad and open-ended, while ambitions are about breaking your dreams down into bite-sized pieces in which action can be implemented.

You could have the dream to end world hunger, but your ambition could be about making clear-cut strategies to mitigate famine.

For example:

Using our case of ending world hunger, your ambitions to conquer this dream could look something like this:

  • Understanding countries that have the highest rates of starvation and malnutrition
  • Improving agriculture in these areas that need it most hereby also boosting incomes
  • Meeting with legislatures of this area to determine steps for increasing financial means to citizens of this country
  • Teaching residents about wellbeing and nutrition, such as how to farm the land and care for the most effective livestock. Also educating everyone on preparing for unforeseen natural disasters such as droughts.
  • Gathering the community to collect any spare food or cans and being hands on to directly deliver food, water, and resources to those that need it most.

As you can see, none of these action-oriented steps will be accomplished with mere dreaming.  Implementation of these dreams can only be carried out by doing.

Difference Between Ambitions and Goals

To break down these two terms:

  • Ambition – again is the actionable cause behind your goal.
  • While a Goal– is defined as, “the end toward which effort is directed.”

A few notes about the differences between ambitions and goals are:

  • You might be directing focus towards your end-goal, but this definition still (like dreaming) does not encompass any action.
  • A goal is you striving for something but it’s only a slight step above dreaming about it without proper determination. This is because you are more focused and detailed than when you’re idly dreaming. But still not ambitious about making it a reality.
  • Your ambition is initiated by your goal, and perhaps the main difference between dreams and goals, is that the same can be said in reverse. Your goal can also be initiated by your ambition, whereas your dreams are usually the first step. Going back to the first line of this article, the same cannot be said in reverse about dreams.

Essentially – Goals can be created by your ambition and also by your dream, but a goal will never be reached without ambition.

How to Work Backwards from a Goal

Sometimes we see the mountain of tasks before us and feel that there are too many little steps to make it to the top. A technique used by experts is to work backward from the problem, already beginning at the closest point to that issue (instead of at the furthest point away from it, at the bottom of the mountain).

Working Backwards is a tactic used by those that feel overwhelmed by the gravity of their long-term goal.

If the task seems too large to be achievable, then you’re not breaking it down into small enough steps.

This technique can be utilized by:

  1. Clearly defining your end-goal
  2. Break this long-term goal into the short-term goals that must be done to reach it. In our world hunger example, perhaps this could mean collecting phone numbers of the legislature in your selected country of need. Taking something small like figuring out how to get in contact with the right people, is a much easier goal to take on than solving world hunger.
  3. Break these smaller goals into measurable targets – Regarding gaining contact numbers for the officials in a position of power, this could look like:
    1. Determining the most effective way of reaching them
    2. Researching these legislature officials to understand what YOU can do for them.
    3. Outlining your specific pitch to these government officials once you reach them.
    4. Creating a business plan or outline of your long-term goal, as a tangible offering to present them as your ambitions. This will keep your ambitions from looking like mere dreams.
  4. Work in order to accomplish all small goals, until you finally achieve your larger/long-term goal.

Why Resistance Against Your Goal is a Façade

Starting is the hardest part, and resistance is the reason that so many of our aspirations, only remain as idle dreams. It’s because ambition cuts through your excuses, and that can feel intimidating.

When you feel intimidated by your goals, you are experiencing resistance, which typically leads to feelings of:

  • Inadequacy
  • Procrastination
  • Overwhelm
  • Attempting to justify yourself

If you feel overwhelmed, you must break things down into smaller steps. You essentially break them down into steps that feel manageable and don’t overwhelm you, which eliminates the hardest part of starting.

Conquering Resistance

Life-Altering Tip – Make the task so incredibly small that you cannot talk yourself out of it.

If there is no excuse strong enough to encourage procrastination, your dream will become actionable. A few examples to help you start on your goal and make it seem less intimidating are the following. If you…

  • …don’t want to contact a nation’s government yet, start with self-defining your mission.
  • …don’t want to write an essay, just log-onto the computer and determine if you’re up for it.
  • …want to paint more but keep procrastinating, simply lay out your paints and see if you want to paint after that.
  • …want to read more but get overwhelmed by reading a whole book, try to read a page.
  • …would love to go out for a run but it feels too difficult, just put on your running clothes and shoes and see how you feel about going out now.

Turning on the computer, laying out your paints, reading a single page, etc. – Will all feel easy once you do them, likely encouraging you to do more than just that bare minimum.  

Final Tips on Achieving Your Ambitions and Dreams

A few final tips to help make your dreams a reality are:

  • Don’t Fall Victim to Blind Ambition – This can lead to ignoring essential factors that you should keep your eyes on. Becoming blinded by your goals will lead to vulnerabilities. Although it can be beneficial to block out external ‘noise’ and interference, being blinded to the outside forces at play will not be to your long-term benefit.
  • Allow Your Goals to Evolve – Things rarely end up how we plan them. Since life will throw many curveballs at you, you cannot become so attached to the ‘perfection’ of your goal, that you are blinded by it. Give your goals the space to breathe, grow, and change with time. Your final outcome may not be what you envisioned. But it might even be better.
  • Determine if You’re Dedicated – If you’re not whole-heartedly committed to your goal, it is just a dream (a fluctuating fancy that can come and go like cravings). If you are prepared to dedicate yourself to these desires, your motivation is what will create intentional action.

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