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Aspirations and ambitions are personal desires to meet long-term goals or achievements (1). Intrinsic ambitions are goals relating to personal growth and meaningful relationships and contributions to the community (2). On the other hand, extrinsic aspirations are goals which involve financial success, popularity and attractiveness (2).


Aspi/Ambi Pro/Risk

Risk and/or Protective Factor

Ambitions and aspirations can be protective factors for mental health as they can give meaning and structure to life (3). Having intrinsic aspirations has been associated with better mental health (4). Contrarily, extrinsic aspirations have been linked to lower well-being (5). However, if the extrinsic ambitions are linked to fulfilling needs, such as financial security, then these ambitions may contribute to well-being (3).

Another important aspect is whether ambitions are achievable or unrealistic. Unrealistic aspirations may be a risk factor, for example perfectionism has been linked to distress, depression, eating disorders, and anxiety disorders (6).



1.        Harrell T. What Is Aspiration? | Betterhelp [Internet]. BetterHelp. 2020 [cited 2021 Jan 12]. Available from:

2.        Kasser T, Ryan RM. Be careful what you wish for: Optimal functioning and the relative attainment of intrinsic and extrinsic goals. In: Schmuck P, Sheldon KM, editors.  Life goals and well-being: Towards a positive psychology of human striving [Internet]. Hogrefe & Huber Publishers; 2001 [cited 2021 Feb 4]. p. 116–31. Available from:

3.        Ingrid B, Majda R, Dubravka M. Life goals and well-being: Are extrinsic aspirations always detrimental to well-being? Psihol Teme. 2009;18(2):317–34.

4.        Sheldon KM, Kasser T. Pursuing Personal Goals: Skills Enable Progress, but Not all Progress is Beneficial. Personal Soc Psychol Bull [Internet]. 1998 Dec 2 [cited 2021 Feb 4];24(12):1319–31. Available from:

5.        Niemiec CP, Ryan RM, Deci EL. The path taken: Consequences of attaining intrinsic and extrinsic aspirations in post-college life. J Res Pers [Internet]. 2009 Jun [cited 2021 Feb 4];43(3):291–306. Available from: /pmc/articles/PMC2736104/?report=abstract

6.        Overholser J, Dimaggio G. Struggling with perfectionism: When good enough is not good enough. J Clin Psychol [Internet]. 2020 Nov 29 [cited 2021 Feb 4];76(11):2019–27. Available from:


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