What drives you, really drives you?
When I asked myself that question, my thoughts flew to rainbows, butterflies, and lollipops. Colorful, carefree, delicious images came to mind. But after a few minutes I knew I wasn’t being completely honest with myself. True, those tangible things brought me happiness. They inspired action to achieve the drunken ecstasy of accomplishment. But they weren’t the real ugly prompt that motivated me to wake up each day and push hard against obstacles to achieve my life goals. I dug deeper. I peeled away the pretty outer shell I show the world. Buried deep beneath that polished veneer, I discovered an ugly reality.
It took several, well-disciplined rounds of self-searching to reveal what I now know to be the truth. With each new round, I pulled at strings trying to hold onto threads of decency. I slid from my first spontaneous and juvenile answers to ones that sounded noble. I favored the notion that my drive was fueled by honorable causes. And so, I settled for things like my insatiable need for forward momentum came from a desire to teach and educate, to give back. Or my driving force was powered by my family’s code of ethics. It was my duty as a parent to give my kids a good, healthy foundation they could build on to become productive, independent, contributing adults.
I asked several other people, what drives you? Their answers came quickly. I heard things like, I want to help others. Or, I strive to give my clients excellent customer service. Or, I want to be the best, fill in the blank, I can be. Or simply, my family. These are all decent, well-meaning goals, and there are hundreds more. But I believe the true, gritty answers are not so considerate or thoughtful, but are instead, artfully self-serving.
I pressed for raw answers.
My husband’s first answer was he’s driven by the need to do quality work. We dug deeper and decided he’s a perfectionist. We boiled that down further and discovered his true nature. He’s stubborn. It wasn’t easy to admit, but then we realized his stubbornness has a positive side effect. He’s a fastidious and dependable trouble-shooter who doesn’t stop until the job, any job is completed correctly.
At first, my older daughter said she was driven by a desire to help people. We stripped that away and reveled she liked to be in control. That revelation eventually lead us to her real motivation. She wanted to be the first person to do new things. The positive side effect of her drive is she’s a pioneer and an innovator.
When asked, my other daughter blurted out her driving force without hesitation and without shame. She admitted she was driven by spite. At a young age she was told she wouldn’t achieve her dream of owning a horse. It made her try harder. Being driven by spite is an ugly truth for sure. But it worked in her favor. She proved everyone wrong and has now owned a horse for 10 years. She’s living her dream. She’s an influencer.
Other ugly answers revealed when I asked, what drives you? were: dare devil, adrenaline rushes, pride and control. Quite possibly the character traits we’d find in talented athletes, famed intellectuals and great leaders.
Interestingly, no one I asked mentioned power, money, love, hate, fame or revenge. Though those are a part of life, fundamental motivations appeared to be primed from internal forces, not external influences.
After long consideration, I narrowed down and pin-pointed my core motivation. I’m driven by the pursuit of self-worth. Being an artist who lives life on the fringes, I don’t have comparisons to relate to. I question myself and my methods all the time. It’s likely what fuels my creativity. But it also makes me wonder where I fit in.
I’m always stepping outside of my comfort zone, challenging myself to try new, scary things. I’m never sure if I’ll succeed. But when I do have some measure of success, I feel good about the accomplishment. If I fail, I try again.
And this is actually the advantage to not having comparisons. When you’re on the cutting edge, there are no rules to break. You make the rules up as you go along.
I then take what I’ve learned and channel it in a way that provides for the noble causes like teaching and parenting. Though my catalyst may be an ugly, self-indulgent trait, it’s ultimately used in a positive way.
What drives you? What really makes you, you? The person who ignores criticism, blazes around obstacles and sees failure as a learning curve. Be honest. Peel away the safe answers and you’ll find the truth. There’s no shame in honesty.
Me? In my pursuit of self-worth, I’ve found the confidence to raise my voice. I’m using it to share my experiences and show the hidden value of embracing our primitive nature.
You? What’s your ugly truth? And what beautiful work do you ultimately use it for?