Have you ever seen Citizen Kane? There are many levels in Orson Welles’ classic fictional film biography. One of the most haunting themes, I think, is that Kane’s pursuit of power and obsessive collecting were fueled by his drive to reclaim all he lost with his childhood, including that fabled sled, Rosebud.
But in the end, even though he almost gained the world, what was lost remained lost and he threw away much that was wonderful in its unarticulated and vain pursuit.
And this makes me think about drive.
Not that I’m against drive. Drive is what makes us get up and go. Drive makes us stay up and stand by. Drive not only fuels our performance, it guides us.
But the question is – what is it driving us to?
And the next question is – is that really what we want?
For example, many people might say they are driven to succeed. Success in this regard is often defined in terms of money, possessions and recognition, you know, the old “Fortune and Fame” thing.
But I think it might be helpful to be more specific, unless your definition of success really does include dying like a crazed hermit in a castle.
Because, just as Charles Foster Kane’s art collecting didn’t have much to do with art, I think many people pursue career success with a similarly vague idea of the need they’re trying to address.
Figuring out what really drives you isn’t necessarily going to be an easy process. It’s not like in the movies where, after a few minutes of thought, you’ll sit bolt upright and say, “Of course! I keep wanting to make partner because my parents’ joint amnesia prevented them from ever telling me I was adopted.”
Even if your insights aren’t as clear, or as dramatic, they can be helpful.
Knowing what drives you will help you figure out if what you’re doing could possibly lead you to achieving it. If you’re motivated by making a nice life for your family, missing all your kids’ games and talent show performances because you’re trying to make money to buy that nice life could be counter-productive.
Knowing what drives you will also help you figure out when enough is enough. There are forces in society which will always keep prompting you to do more, to earn more money, be more famous, own more and so on. But as Charles Foster Kane and many Americans have discovered, pursuing more and more can lead to less and less.
However, when you know what’s driving you, even if it’s unattainable, you may be able to find some peace in the pursuit.
by Danielle Dresden