Hartley, who has 42 England caps to his name, has started the season superbly and is hopeful of receiving the ultimate reward when the Lions head to Hong Kong and Australia next summer.
"Making the Lions would be the pinnacle of my career," Hartley told The Guardian.
"Piggy Powell (the former Northampton prop who was a Lion in 1966) always tells me stories about the Lions and it is clearly an experience you remember all your life.
"But only hard work will get you on the plane; first for your club in the Premiership, then in the Heineken Cup, which is a step up, and then, if you are fortunate, playing for your country.
"Selection for the Lions is in my hands: Warren (Gatland) will pick his squad on form and if I play well for Northampton and England, I will have a chance.
"It's a huge year with a number of big games and, I hope, a few rewards."
Hartley's ultimate ambition may be to star for the Lions against the Wallabies in nine months' time but he is hoping for success with both club and country before then.
Northampton have started the season with three wins from three Aviva Premiership fixtures, while England finished second in the Six Nations and showed glimpses of their potential in holding South Africa to a draw in their final Test of the summer.
"I am very happy with the start we have made at Northampton," added Hartley.
"We have not been at our best yet, but to win at places like Gloucester and Bath means we are doing something right.
"We have to carry it on and it would be good to go into the Heineken Cup unbeaten, but our next three games are all tough.
"There's a big month for England. We will not be taking any glory from defeat. We want to perform and there will be no excuses. There is nothing to be gained in defeatism: we want to win every game.
"We came together well in the Six Nations and in South Africa in the summer and we have to kick on again.
"I have watched the Rugby Championship and, while some are questioning the strength of Australia and South Africa, we know exactly what they are capable of - but we do not fear anyone."