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Posts from July 2012

"Being Driven" or "Having Drive:" Are You Being Taken for a Ride?

Overwhelmed Woman Behind Stack of 3 Ring Binders

The Difference Between "Being Driven" and "Having Drive"

I am sure you have heard the enthusiastic compliment, "Oh, yes, she is really driven to succeed!" to describe that up and coming employee scrambling up the corporate ladder. We admire and trust the person who works hard to accomplish goals. Perseverence is an admirable trait and it is essential for success. Who could argue with the person who reaches for the stars and then follows through with passion and tenacity? No one. Although, their behavior does look suspiciously like that of the movers and shakers in the world, but we will forgive them for that. Sorry, I just couldn't resist.    :)

My concern is that sometimes, that drive to succeed is not a choice. It can be a compulsion - a compulsion that is fueled by inadequacy. In this case, these people are indeed, compulsively driven by a fear of being inadequate, or a fear of being exposed as a fraud, sometimes called the Imposter Syndrome. They are distinguished from people who are truly secure and self-confident, who simply enjoy "the thrill of the hunt," and the satisfaction of achieving a grand goal. For these people, self worth is not what is on the line. Failure to achieve the goal is a disappointment and only serves as a challenge to assess the difficulties, make some changes, and do better next time. For people who are driven to achieve by some nameless fear pushing them from behind, failure is experienced as a direct assault upon their core value as human beings. It is devastating and only serves to further entrench them in their compulsive need to prove their value through more accomplishment.

Overwhelmed Woman With Sticky Notes

When Choice Gets Thrown Out the Window, We Call That Addiction

When a person chooses to drink alcohol, we call that person a social drinker. When a person chooses to drink way too much alcohol, we call that person a social drinker who is making a bad choice, but it is still a choice, nonetheless.  When a person chooses to have one drink, but then that drink compels the person to have many, many more, we call that a compulsion to drink, which is addiction.

"First, the man takes a drink.

Then the drink takes a drink.

         Then the drink takes the man."        

                                                                  Chinese Proverb

Just as people can become addicted to alcohol, they can also become addicted to achievement. It is fine to be blessed with the personality trait of being ambitious. However, when that desirable personality trait turns into addiction because it is now fueled by inadequacy, the choice, the joy, the expansiveness of accomplishment is now deadened and no amount of success will be enough to fill that hole in the soul. What is also challenging about this situation is that it can be difficult to tell the difference between the person who is acting from choice and the person who is acting from compulsion. From afar, their behaviors are virtually identical. A closer inspection, though, reveals a distinct difference between their emotional states such as spontaneity, resilience level, optimism, patience, and off-the-clock happiness.

Road Sign Dead End

So Sorry About This Schmaltzy Analogy....            

So, who is in your driver's seat? Are you driving your car from a place of joyful choice? Or has your inadequacy taken over the steering wheel and started driving you erratically into desperate attempts to prove your worth? Do you have drive or are you being driven? Take a quiet and honest look inside yourself and ask, "What is my motivation?"  How would I feel, who would I be if I didn't accomplish these goals?

If you think you recognize yourself as "being driven"  by inadequacy, then this would be a good time for more psychospiritual reflection and some attention given to improving your self worth.  If you keep trying to fill the hole in your soul with mere accomplishment, your satisfaction will be shallow and temporary, and pretty soon you will be singing along with Peggy Lee, "Is That All There Is?" (OK, so you have to be over 50 to get that; the rest of you just go Google it).

This whole "What is my motivation?" question is what underlies identifying codependency. I will be writing a new post about that in the near future, so watch for that one.  In the meantime, I'd love to hear what you think about this "being driven/having drive" distinction. Please leave a comment with your input! Thanks!

Car with Man Driving


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The Serenity Prayer


Candles Photo Spirituality


This morning during my quiet time, I found myself contemplating the Serenity Prayer. In case you are not familiar with it, here it is:

"God, grant me the

serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

courage to change the things I can, and

wisdom to know the difference."

I was struck by the simplicity and brevity of such an all-encompassing prayer. It is widely attributed to Dr. Reinhold Niebuhr, a theologian from Massachusetts, though its origins are still debated. It has been used as a closing prayer by Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) since 1942.

I decided to study each of the words and discover their particular meaning for me. Perhaps I might glean more insight if I thoughtfully considered the words behind the words - for me. I would like to share this with you with the hastily added clarification that I am no philosopher. Here is how it broke down for me:

"God, grant me the                   "Something/Someone greater than myself, give me the

serenity                                       peacefulness, faith and knowing

to accept                                    to allow and not fight against

the things                                   the people and conditions

I cannot change,                        I am powerless over,

courage                                     the trust, resolve and strength

to change                                  to act and make different, - to transform

the things I can                         myself and the conditions I am able to make different,

and                                            and give me

wisdom                                     the transcending knowledge from experience

to know the difference."          to recognize what I can and cannot make different."


"God, grant me the

serenity, courage and wisdom


accept, change and know."

Spirituality Candles Layers of Votives

The Serenity Prayer seems to presume at least three things:

1) the need to go outside of the self to receive help,

2) the willingness to receive and act on what is asked for, and perhaps most strikingly,

3) serenity is not the result of accepting what we cannot change; serenity is the prerequisite to accepting what we cannot change.

So much is made of the need to accept what Life has given us each day, in order to experience peace in life. I can certainly see the wisdom of that, the directional flow that acceptance leads to peace. And yet, the Serenity Prayer calls us to do the opposite, to receive serenity in order to then have acceptance. This is where the need to seek help from outside of us comes in. This is what turns an affirmation into a prayer, the humble invitation to a higher power. I don't know if or how prayers get "answered" or "not answered." My personal belief is that the power is in the act of the asking.

I can appreciate that I might need divine intervention in order to have enough serenity to then experience acceptance. And, it strikes me that serenity is not the same as peace. Serenity is a state of grace that is sometimes the eye of the tornado. It includes a kind of faith from an inner Knowing. In this way, it is much more than a peaceful feeling. 

So, it begins with serenity and through acceptance, courage, action, and wisdom, it then ends in serenity and so goes the circular cycle. I am sure I have much more to learn from this prayer, and more importantly, from living from this prayer.

I would love to hear what your experience is with the Serenity Prayer and what it means to you. Please consider leaving a comment below.


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Anxiety: How to Work Yourself Into a Panic in the Absence of Any Real Threats

Note: This is Topic # 4  in a 10- part series called The Fine Art of Misery.

*On a serious note: Please know that this series is intended to be a spoof, a lighthearted invitation to look at how we sometimes create our own misery. It is by no means meant to be disrespectful or minimizing of many people's true pain, particularly around depression and anxiety.


Anxiety Color Illus Man Very Anxious
OK, first, look around you and assess the situation. Granted, your belly is full, you have a roof over your head, your bills are reasonably paid up, and you can call a person or two a friend.  You have a few bucks in your pocket. You can inhale and exhale with some degree of ease and you have access to at least the majority of your five senses. Do not be lulled into a sense of complacency! You can still create a crisis out of this seemingly secure situation. 

A creative imagination here is helpful. Since there is nothing major happening in your current reality that warrants freaking out, you will need to borrow some material from your past and also from your future.

Anxiety Borrowed From Your Past

Let's take a look at your past and see if you can recycle some old traumas and stresses. Let's start small.  Recall the way someone looked at you funny. If you think about it, it was actually a pretty critical look and they were probably judging you about something. That's a good reason to get upset, maybe create some after the fact indignation or better yet, fear that they really don't like you afterall. That would be devastating!

How about some "coulda, woulda, shouldas?" I could have done a better job on that project; now everyone thinks I'm a loser.  I would have made a better impression if she hadn't stolen the spotlight; now I'm just a nobody. I should have known he would react like that; now I'll bet he doesn't trust me.  A variation on this theme is the "if only." If only I had stayed at my old job, I wouldn't be in this mess. If only I had listened to my instincts, I wouldn't be stuck in this relationship. "If onlys" are handy if you want to add a tinge of depression to your anxiety. This makes for a nice touch.

Overwhelmed Finger Hitting Panic Button

Anxiety Borrowed From Your Future

The future is a great place to create some anxiety because you're not constrained by actual events that have already happened. The sky's the limit! Start with some "what ifs." What if I don't get the job? What if my girlfriend  breaks up with me? What if the car breaks down while I'm on the highway at night? What if I ignore this headache and it turns out to be a brain tumor and I die a slow agonizing death, leaving my family destitute and grief stricken?  See how quickly you can go from zero to sixty in a few seconds flat? "What ifs" are the gold standard for creating anxiety out of future thin air.

Anxiety: Go for the Gold!

If you're going for sustained, long term chronic anxiety, you will need to create some foundational negative beliefs and attitudes.  Beliefs like, "Everyone has to like me all the time," "I can't ever make a mistake or let them see me vulnerable," and "I always have to be the best at everything I do," are a good start.

I hope this little installment from The Fine Art of Misery series has been helpful. Stay tuned for the next title,  Finding True Love: Trample Over Those Pesky Red Flags.


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