You can be the driver of your life or you can be the one driven. And if you are not the driver, who is?
Many of the executives I work with proudly report that they are driven to achieve. And they are.
The results are unmistakable. Each has either built or climbed to the upper echelon in their company and rank somewhere between the top 1-10% in annual earnings.
But they also report that they never feel any pleasure from achieving a goal — there is always another one further down the road. Many can never be satisfied with the quality, and beat themselves up that it could have been better.
And at some point, in our executive coaching, almost every one of them admit that their greatest fear is either “failure” or being “found out to be a fraud.” And of course, everyone has their own. These fundamental fears — these deep insecurities — are the volcanic source of their endless and unrelenting drive to achieve.
These fears reside in your sub-conscious programming, what I call the “autopilot.” When your autopilot takes charge, you are driven — you are no longer in charge even when you think you are. You know that’s true because you can’t stop being driven.
Consider the metaphor of a Roman chariot race. When you are driven, you are the horse. Your fears and insecurities in the form of your autopilot are driving the chariot (your life). They whip you to go faster and faster until there’s no time for anything but running. No matter how exhausted you are, you run on, your tongue hanging out and lather coating your flanks.
As the horse in this scenario, you don’t have the time or regard for anything but the race. With this single-minded focus, you accomplish many goals but you are likely to run over whatever is in your way to achieve them. You also ignore the journey, bypass the scenery without a glance, and look up at the end of your life and all you have done is run from your fears — and there’s nowhere else to run.
Many driven people will say that their fears are how they motivate themselves. And that’s true. But as a strategy, it is a poor one. The negative consequences of this strategy include:
- Sacrificing your health, relationships, and enjoyment of life,
- Developing addictions,
- Cutting corners and resorting to shady ethics
- Damaging anyone or anything in your way.
There’s a better way — a better strategy that preserves the energy and desire to achieve but without the negative consequences. When you decide to stop running and to turn and face your inner demons, you can shift from the driven to the driver of your life. As you develop your inner mastery, you:
- Develop a deep sense of self-worth independent of external circumstances and opinion,
- Realize that failure is natural and unavoidable and that it doesn’t define you,
- Come to terms with a realistic assessment of your capabilities, and
- Cease to make your income and achievements the currency of your worth.
When you become the driver of your life’s chariot, the horse that pulls you forward is your purpose and passion. These are far more powerful and sustainable sources of energy, enthusiasm, adaptability and conviction. They also invite others on the journey with you rather that running them over or dragging them behind you.
As the driver, you can stop whenever you want. You can enjoy the journey and celebrate the milestones and successes. You can have a meaningful life outside of the race and still be an extraordinary leader and achieve important things in the race.
The pervasive strife and suffering in society today — and subsequent damage to health, relationships, societal bonds and the environment — are demanding that we stop and take a hard look at what is driving us and make different choices. We are all leaders in our own lives and in the world. When we individually and collectively embrace the shift into the driver’s seat, we will advance the healing of our lives and the world.
Mark Youngblood founded Inner Mastery Inc. more than 20 years ago to promote personal and organizational transformation. His outreach includes executive coaching, the Inner Mastery Learning Community, the Dear Human series of books, public speaking, workshops, and life coaching. Learn more.