How do you motivate someone who lacks ambition?
Maybe it seems as though they don’t have the drive or strong desire to improve their life or career. Perhaps as soon as the going gets a little bit tough, they give up. Or they never really try in the first place.
The good news is that everyone has ambition, regardless of whether they are showing it right now.
But how do you deal with no ambition? And how do you coach someone who is unmotivated?
Here is how to coach someone who doesn’t have ambition.
1) Get them to define their own unique version of ambition
We all want to be successful deep down. We just may have wildly different versions of what success actually is.
Some people can have a very narrow idea of what ambition involves.
Some believe that success means being rich, famous, or powerful. Others believe that it means achieving goals such as graduating from college, landing a great job, or buying a house.
However, ambition and success aren’t defined by material possessions. Instead, it’s defined by how much you contribute to society and how well you live your life.
Getting them to consider and define what ambition and success really look like to them can help them discover more motivation.
Try asking them what ambition and success look like, and what drives their ambition.
In reality, they may have more ambition than you think, they simply may not know how to express it.
2) Focus on meaning and impact
We often think that it’s external goals and rewards we’re working towards which drive us forward. In reality, the meaning behind the goals and ambitions we have are what really creates motivation.
If you ask yourself why you want something, you’ll find that there’s usually some kind of meaning behind it for you.
For example, if you want to get a better job, it could be a greater sense of status, purpose or financial security you are looking for.
Get them to consider the impact they want to make, the person they want to show up as, and the values they want to show.
Reconnecting to these deeper values can help reignite sparks of ambition to contribute more or in different ways.
In big ways and small ways, there is meaning in the daily tasks which we do. Getting them to remember the impact they have can help lift and encourage them.
3) Offer encouragement and build their self-esteem
What on the surface may seem like a lack of ambition, may in fact be a lack of confidence.
When we start to doubt ourselves, our ability to achieve, or our value as a human being, we begin to lose motivation.
If someone isn’t confident about themselves, they won’t be able to put themselves out there and share their ideas. They will also struggle to take risks and try new things.
By building their self-confidence, you can help them gain back the spark of motivation they may have once had.
A simple way to help build their self-esteem is through positive feedback.
Give them compliments, praise them for doing good work, and let them know when they’ve done something right.
This can go a long way in helping them regain their confidence and motivation.
This isn’t about being condescending. It’s about offering them your support as they bolster their own self-esteem.
At the same time, they need to be encouraged to work on their own self-worth.
4) Encourage them to discover their passions and purpose
When we talk about passion and purpose, we mean the things that bring us joy, fulfilment, and satisfaction.
Nothing fuels ambition quite like feeling purposeful.
But when it comes to tackling a total lack of ambition and motivation, it could be that they’re not living a life aligned with a deeper sense of purpose.
The consequences of not finding your purpose in life include a general sense of frustration, listlessness, dissatisfaction, and a sense of not being connected with your inner self.
It’s difficult to have ambition when you’re not feeling in sync.
I learned a new way to discover my purpose after watching Ideapod co-founder Justin Brown’s video on the hidden trap of improving yourself. He explains that most people misunderstand how to find their purpose, using visualization and other self-help techniques.
However, visualization isn’t the best way to find your purpose. Instead, there’s a new way to do it which Justin Brown learned from spending time with a shaman in Brazil.
After watching the video, I discovered my purpose in life and it dissolved my feelings of frustration and dissatisfaction.
This helped me to feel more enthusiastic about not only my day-to-day life but my longer-term goals and ambitions for the future.
5) Understand what drives them
Every single one of us has needs, and we are all motivated to fulfil them. But at the same time, those needs will differ depending on the person.
According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, there are five basic needs people strive to satisfy: physiological, safety, love/belonging, esteem, and self-actualization.
If you want to motivate someone who lacks ambition, you should understand what drives them so you can better cater to their needs.
One employee may feel unmotivated because he feels unappreciated or undervalued, but another employee may feel unmotivated because he feels overworked and stressed out.
Some people are driven by money while others are driven by power. Some want to change the world while others just want to make sure their kids get into college.
So if you’re trying to figure out why someone isn’t motivated, you’ll need to understand what drives them.
Once you know what motivates them, you can use that knowledge to help them find their ambition. It also helps you to structure incentives along the way which tap into their own unique drives.
6) Empower them with a sense of greater control
Whenever we feel like we don’t have much control over our own lives, it can be incredibly discouraging.
It can quickly wipe away ambition and motivation when we don’t feel like we’re in the driving seat of life.
The more you can get them to take ownership, self-responsibility, and control — the better.
What daily tasks or roles do they have autonomy over and where can they find even more?
How can you give them more responsibility?
7) Help them to create goals that they relate too
Goal setting needs to be done right. Otherwise it can actually backfire and be incredibly demotivating.
When you set a goal for someone else, you’ll often end up having to force them to stick to it. And if they don’t, then you’ve wasted your efforts.
Instead, try helping them create goals that relate to something meaningful to them. They’re more likely to follow through if they’re invested in the outcome.
8) Encourage them to tap into their personal power
At the heart of coaching someone who doesn’t have ambition is answering the question: How do you motivate someone who doesn’t want to be motivated?
And the real truth is that you ultimately cannot. You can support and encourage them. You can provide access to helpful tools which might be useful to them.
But as the old saying goes, you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink.
So what can you do to help them find their own ambition?
Encourage them to begin with themself. Until they look within and unleash their personal power, they’ll never find the satisfaction and fulfilment they’re searching for.
I learned this from the shaman Rudá Iandê. His life mission is to help people restore balance to their lives and unlock their creativity and potential. He has an incredible approach that combines ancient shamanic techniques with a modern-day twist.
In his excellent free video, Rudá explains effective methods to achieve what you want in life.
To find ambition, they need to build a better relationship with themselves, unlock their endless potential, and put passion at the heart of everything they do.
9) Incentivise progress
Whether it is through praise and encouragement or rewards — incentives are the carrot that drives motivation.
Noticing and feeding back on small wins can be powerful.
If you’re looking to increase their motivation, you need to focus on providing them with opportunities to learn new skills, develop new talents, earn extra income, gain experience, and so on.
Discover what it is that drives them, and remind them of the rewards — whether they be emotional, financial, or practical.
10) Be patient
It takes time to change habits.
So instead of expecting instant results, be prepared to invest some time before seeing any big changes in behavior.
Remember that it’s not about changing someone overnight. It’s about building momentum and consistency.
The key here is to not expect immediate results. This process may take months, not weeks or days.