Why I am Striking the Phrase “I Am Driven” From My Vocabulary

I’ve always thought it a badge of honor to call myself “driven” and “ambitious” until the aha moment while reading Susan Fowler’s new book Why Motivating People Doesn’t Work… and What Does: The New Science of Leading, Energizing, and Engaging.”

While ambitious might still be a fine descriptor, I apparently missed what Susan describes as an old adage: If you are driven, who is doing the driving?

When we talk about being driven, it is related to the idea that we are motivated to get what we don’t have. So, if I say I am driven, I am allowing something outside myself to push me in pursuit of something I am lacking. Fowler describes the high cost of using this means of motivation; when we achieve that which we have been driven to achieve, our source of motivation disappears. Being driven means being motivated in a way that has no lasting power because as soon as we gain what we have been driven to seek, we have no motivation left.

About being driven, Fowler asks these insightful questions: “Who or what is doing the driving? Are you driven by the promise of money, rewards, power, or status? Are you driven to dispel fear, shame, or guilt? Are you driven to avoid disappointing someone important or yourself?”

Rather than being driven, I’d like to be doing the driving: thoughtfully and mindfully taking action toward reaching my goals, from a place of strength and focus rather than from a fear of negative results.

What about you? Have you described yourself as driven? If so, who (or what) is doing the driving?

According to the new science of motivation, our driven-ness derives from unmet psychological needs: autonomy, relatedness, and competence. The only way we can shift from our dysfunction is to understand these needs to find ways to meet them. When our needs for autonomy, relatedness, and competence are met, we will be more likely to achieve the state Fowler describes as optimal motivation.

This guest post by Becky Robinson is shared in celebration of the launch of Susan Fowler’s new book, Why Motivating People Doesn’t Work and What Does. Learn more about optimal motivation by taking one of Susan’s assessments to discover your motivational outlook at http://susanfowler.com/assessments or learn more about the book at http://motivationbook.susanfowler.com/

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