Interview questions answered: What do you want to accomplish in your life?

Life is an incredible experience, at least for those of us who were not born in a slum or with an incurable ailment. And, while the existence of eternal life will always be a mystery, one thing is certain: we are here, on Earth, and we have a life to live. But what are we supposed to do with it? What goals should we set for ourselves? We’ll have to deal with this uncomfortable question sooner or later. And you’ll have to answer it sooner or later, whether in a job interview or a school admissions interview.

At the end of the day, hiring managers (or admissions committees at schools) do not expect to hear that you want to make a difference in the world. However, they want to hear about your aims and ambitions since they reflect your values, which are very important to your potential employer… Furthermore, people that strive for success in their careers or in their lives make the best employees. Because they have a reason to live and work, and this is reflected in their daily motivation and attitude toward work.

Let’s look at 7 sample responses to this question or its variants, such as “What is your life’s ambition?” or “What do you aim to achieve in life?” My list includes both standard and unorthodox (or philosophical) responses, and I hope you find something useful for your interview. Or, at the very least, it should jog your imagination…

7 examples of the question “What do you want to achieve in your life?”

  1. I simply want to make the most of the changes that have been presented to me. To be the best version of myself possible. I believe that many things we cannot control, such as our genetics or upbringing, have a significant impact on us. Also, where we were born, whether we had excellent parents and role models, and so on. However, once we reach adulthood and make our own decisions, we have several opportunities to improve our own lives and the lives of those with whom we interact, whether at work or in our personal lives. I don’t want to let these opportunities pass me by without taking advantage of them.
  2. I simply want to be happy in my life; it’s a simple description, yet it involves a lot of things. I want to have a healthy family, provide for the people I care about, make a difference in the firm where I work, and so on. Of course, all of this involves sacrifices, discipline, and hard work. But I know that when I commit to my goals, I am content to make sacrifices and work hard. On the contrary, if I go to work for the only purpose of earning money, I will be unhappy…
  3. To be honest, I don’t have any lofty ambitions. It’s just not my way of looking at things. I try to enjoy the present moment, to devote my full focus to whatever activity I am doing at the time, whether it is answering a customer’s phone call, peeling potatoes, running up the hill, or talking to you here in an interview. It is not always simple, but it is worthwhile to attempt every second of our earthly existence. Ambitions to alter the world are a fabrication of our ego, and they will always make us sad. Because even the greatest accomplishment is only instant gratification, and we will always seek it. That is not a happy way to live. It’s a path to the abyss.
  4. I’d like to make a positive difference in the indigenous community. I understand how terrible life is for many of them, and how politics does not benefit them. But here I am, with my mission, attempting to create equality or, at the very least, to make their lives a little easier. That’s why I majored in social work, spent years living with indigenous people, and eventually applied for a position with your NGO. My personal purpose is my motivation to keep living and working hard every day since I believe I am attempting to do something truly significant in my lifetime.
  5. I simply want to maximize my athletic potential. To train hard, to perform all of the workouts, to recuperate properly, to eat properly, you name it. To accomplish so, I must be a member of a truly professional squad, one that has only the highest aspirations and does not wish to compete in the second division. That’s why I applied for a scholarship at your university. I am familiar with the coaches here, the dedication of your athletics squad, and, of course, the achievements you obtain with your athletes. I am confident that I will be able to attain my objectives while studying and training here.
  6. I’d like to own my own business, a successful hotel or restaurant, at some time in my life. That is my long-term goal: to run a location where people don’t just come to eat or stay. They will come here for a memorable dining experience. But I’m too young to pursue my dream, and I don’t have any money, to begin with. At this point in my professional career, all I want to do is learn, gather experience, and finally prepare to pursue my ambition in the future. Your hotel is an excellent location for gaining such experiences.
  7. Your question can be answered in one word: balance. I am looking for balance in my life, and I am confident that practically everyone is as well, even if they may fail to express it effectively at times. The appropriate balance of humility and confidence, a healthy balance of job and family life, a good balance of activities during the day, and, most all, a mental balance, a state of consciousness free of unpleasant emotions like jealousy, rage, worry, and so on. I know it’s not an easy aim to reach. And perhaps it is a lifelong quest, something that will always be an aim, an ideal we strive for but never achieve. Nonetheless, I shall keep trying…

Demonstrate your enthusiasm for your goals.

Whether you are discussing work-related goals or larger ambitions, you should speak with enthusiasm in your voice. They won’t believe you if you don’t.

They should receive the feeling that you perceive a significance in your life, or that you are certain there is a reason and that you are still looking for it. And, ideally, you should link your employment with the organization to this meaning. It’s not always attainable, and it relies on the job you’re attempting to obtain. Check out sample responses 4 and 5 for some ideas.

Numbers in the question: 10 things you want to accomplish in your life, or what you want to accomplish in the next 3-5 years

By adding a modifier to the question, interviewers might make it more challenging. For example, a time horizon (3, 5, or 10 years) or an exact number of things you want to do in your life (I’ve seen this as a topic for an essay students had to write as part of a school admissions process). The first, the temporal horizon, is the less difficult of the two. Just remember that Rome wasn’t created in a day, and the same applies to your job. Consider what you can learn, what position you can get, and what you can accomplish for your employer, your family, and yourself over the next three or five years.

If they ask you to mention ten things you want to do, I recommend aiming for variety. You should include goals for your personal and family life, your health, your work, and possibly some philanthropy on your list. Needless to add, if you are religious or spiritual, such objectives should be included on your list. Let me offer you a simple example (which you should build on in your own essay):

  • Obtain inner peace and satisfaction.
  • My family is happy and peaceful.
  • Develop active and profitable interactions with my friends and coworkers.
  • In life, never stop learning new things.
  • Maintain as much of my physical and mental health as possible for as long as possible.
  • Make a beneficial impact in your community, perhaps through charity work.
  • Run a marathon in under 3:30 or accomplish some other feat of endurance in my life.
  • Make my imprint on the marketing sector, which is something I’d like to work in.
  • One day, I hope to raise my children to be nice people.
  • Always be modest while remaining sure that I can make the world a better place.

In your interview, do not be scared to philosophize.

“What do you want to accomplish in your life?” is a philosophical question, and you should not be afraid to answer it philosophically, pondering the meaning of life, considering your place in the world, and so on.

You may even claim that you do not fantasize about your accomplishments. They will be satisfied with your answer as long as it is based on your particular philosophy (such as living in the present moment, see sample answer no. 3). Furthermore, unique interview responses will help you stick out from the crowd. Standing out is often the most critical aspect of interviews…

Athina Iliadis is a Human Resources Professional with over 25 years’ experience in corporate environments working for companies such as Pearson, LexisNexis, Hershey, and Reckitt. In her current role as a consultant working with clients around the world, she coaches managers and employees on HR issues, supports leaders in their business, produces content about careers, interviews, and job opportunities. She is fluent in English, French and Greek, and she holds a BBA with a major in HR from Université du Québec à Montréal. Find her on LinkedIn and at

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