The Serenity Prayer
The Tetris Effect: Two Simple Steps to Train Your Brain for Happiness

"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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Comments

Stefan Parmark

This is a very interesting topic. I have never thought of it this way. I can look at my own motivation for my blog. I love helping people, to see that I can help people move forward in their lives. Writing helpful articles helps me fulfill my life purpose. But I can also see that I am driven by fear, fear of not being able to reach this goal, a fear of failing. That fear also drives me, but gives me no joy. The joy comes from seeing that I am actually making a difference.
I obviously must let go of my fear, and let the joy drive me. Thanks to your article I will focus more on this. Thanks!

Kristin L. Roush, Ph.D.

Hi Stefan,
I really appreciate your sharing your insight about recognizing the role of fear as part of your motivation. That is really helpful. And to everyone else, please go check out Stefan's Self Improvement blog, www.StefanParmark.com
He has much to share; I have really benefited from his well written, practical, and insightful posts.

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