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Do You Have an Achievement Driver?

We are all driven by something, even though it can be hard to pinpoint that that is in some people. We’re driven by a diverse and sometimes competing set of expectations, ambitions, and desires whether its to be the best; to be accepted; or to make a change in the world.

To my mind, being driven is nowhere near as much fun as doing the driving. Nine times out of ten I’d prefer to be in the driving seat, controlling my vehicle. That’s partly why the notion of driverless cars alarms me: they’re not driver-less, it’s just that we’ve handed over the driving to someone or something else. It might make for an exciting or nerve-wracking ride, or it might end up being a smoother ride: but it won’t be MY ride.

I had a frightening experience with a crazy taxi driver in Brussels who had decided to take a very long diversion from the airport to my hotel, until I rumbled him and asked him to turn around. In anger, he put his foot down and gave me a Monte Carlo experience I really wasn’t too enamoured of. The only tip I left him was a slight wet patch on the back seat. The moral of the story is “Don’t be in too much of a hurry to give up your driving seat”.

Emerging from the field of Transactional Analysis is the notion of Motivational Drivers. There are generally agreed to five of them: Be Strong, Be Perfect, Try Hard, Hurry Up and Please People. I’ve been using these drivers in my consultancy and coaching work for years, as a way of helping people understand why they might be behaving the way the way they do; and finding ways to gain better control of their human vehicle.

As time has gone on, I think a reappraisal of these Drivers is due. For a start, I am more and more convinced that there should be a sixth Driver called Be Careful, since we are all driven to a greater or lesser extent, by our appetite for risk. The root of this is similar to the root of the other Drivers: a mix of psychological and natural tendencies supported by environmental influence. But even if we add this sixth Driver and accept that it is influential, there is one other Driver that trumps them all.

This is the Achievement Driver. Without an Achievement Driver our other Drivers risk becoming the goals themselves, and that is when problems arise. The goal to Be Perfect or Hurry Up without context, discernment or regulation can be very unhealthy and destructive. If we are not careful, we can be held hostage by these Drivers, just as I was by my Belgian taxi driver.

It's different if we have an Achievement Driver. Now we can determine which of our other Drivers might need to be deployed to achieve more meaningful goals. For instance, If I have an important goal that I want to achieve and feel compelled to achieve it, I will be able to choose what might be required to get it. I might need to move at pace (Hurry Up) to avoid missing the boat, or I might have to gird my loins and Be Strong to charge through the obstacles. Or I might need to focus on working to a very high standard (Be Perfect). Not every goal will require this combination of Drivers. Other goals might need me to focus more on developing certain relationships (Please People) or going at it hammer and tongs (Try Hard). What’s important is that the focus is on achieving the specific goal rather than artificially trying to satisfy a Driver.

Without an Achievement Driver, we can be at the mercy of Be Strong, Be Perfect, Try Hard, Hurry Up, Please People and Be Careful. But these Drivers can be useful tools in our armoury when we have a clear outcome in mind which we are committed to achieving. This is why so many people say to me, “it depends” when we talk about their Drivers. The thing it depends upon is the goal and how important that goal is to them. This is the context that determines which of the other Drivers might have relevance or be a hindrance.

So how strong is your Achievement Driver? Are you driven to deliver results? Do you repeatedly find yourself compelled to move forward? Are you always looking to take on challenges that give you a sense of achievement? Do you get a buzz out of making things happen? Some of these things might need to be done in a hurry, or to an exceptionally high standard; whereas others are okay so long as you get over the line. The thing that matters is that you had a sensible goal and you got there by hook or by crook.

Having an Achievement Driver means that you have a purpose and are purposeful. There is an end point, a defined result that moves you or a situation forward. ‘Be Perfect’ on its own doesn’t give you this because perfection is likely to be indefinable and whatever you achieve ‘never good enough’ if you listen to this gremlin. With an Achievement Driver, ‘Be Perfect’ is tempered: the question now becomes, “how good does the solution need to be to get the result I want?”.

So, let’s not be held hostage by our crazy drivers. Instead, let's find ways to put them to good use and take us where we want to go.

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