Driven: To Meaningful Work and Play

I’ve been hearing short spots on the radio seeking “highly-driven individuals” for a leadership MBA program. Honestly? Highly-driven is a defining behavioral characteristic for leadership candidates?

Just exactly how is this related to better problem-solving, inclusion, innovation, building trust, managing stress and finding fulfillment?

It sounds a lot like grit to me – the short-term, full-focus energy to move forward. But grit is not a skill that can be sustained indefinitely.

I suspect people see me as someone with grit. Many of my clients fall into this category, too. But my motivation is actually self-actualization:

A drive toward self-improvement and the joyous pursuit of intellectual and emotional satisfaction through meaningful work and play; The ability and tendency to grow, stretch and strive – to see your potential, set meaningful goals and work toward your betterment and fulfillment.         

Adapted from the EQ Workbook, Hile Rutledge  

A joyous pursuit with meaningful work and play. This is contagiously positive on any team and with any leader. Yet there are variations to self-actualization that can and will weigh us down on either side.  

Under-Engaged Self-Actualization

Most of us readily recognize under-engaged self-actualization. Others may see us as under-performing, unmotivated, uninterested, bored and closed to new opportunities.
When we are not inspired, and often not in alignment with our core motivational needs, things can feel pretty flat and heavy. (It’s not a permanent state, thank heavens, because all EQ skills are fluid and represent a snapshot in time.)

Over-Engaged Self-Actualization

However, we can also over-engage our self-actualization as well, with a drive that overwhelms others like a tidal wave. We set the bar higher and higher, pushing ourselves and everyone around us, relentlessly.

Nothing is ever enough, because satisfaction is always just out of our reach. We never quite find our joy or settle into it. We may look like or show up to others as:

  • Overly driven and demanding – too intense
  • Overly exuberant with passion, ideas, activities and enthusiasm
  • Unrealistically applying personal expectations to colleagues and family
  • Self-centered and even oblivious to the needs of others
  • Perpetually dissatisfied with the status quo
  • Uninterested or unwilling to do tasks that are not personally fulfilling 

           ~ Adapted from the EQ Workbook, Hile Rutledge

As you read this, do you recognize yourself in any of these boxes? Because many leaders fall into this category. It’s called too much of a good thing.

Self-Actualization Needs Self-Regard

In EQ language, when we have a highly developed skill, we don\’t ever want to stop using it. However, we do want to provide it balance. Self-actualization needs an equally healthy self-regard.

With healthy self-regard, we like ourselves warts and all: imperfections, awkward moments, limitations and flaws. We\’re good with ourselves. We have confidence with an overall positive feeling of self-acceptance and healthy self-esteem.

However, what if our drive for self-actualization exceeds our self-regard? Likely, then, we have not fully internalized and integrated our successes. There is a constant sense of “never-enough” nipping at our heels. It can even result in feeling like an imposter. (Read The Dangers of Feeling Like a Fake.)

To Your Meaningful Work and Play

What kind of life do you want to lead? What kind of role model do you want to be? What kind of people do you want to hire for long-term success?

When we model highly-driven, we might just be pushing ourselves and everyone else right over the edge with our unrealistic expectations.

The other option is to embrace a joyous pursuit of intellectual and emotional satisfaction through meaningful work and play, while liking ourselves, warts and all.

This is where we meet our flow state. This is where creativity and innovation abounds on teams. This is how we live a congruent life.

And this to me is the journey worth taking.  

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