Five clues to the voices that drive you

Who’s voice is that in your head?

The creator of the Peanuts cartoon, Charles M. Schulz, once said, “Sometimes I lie awake at night, and ask, ‘Where have I gone wrong?’ Then a voice says to me, ‘This is going to take more than one night.’”

Five clues to the voices that drive you


You and I have similar voices in our heads informing us about our life. Some affirm. Some are relentlessly critical. They are the imagined dialogue of parents, family members, bosses, mentors or friends that we carry with us.

Left unchecked, they fuel a drive within us to quell their critique. A father tells his son he’ll never amount to anything and the son spends the rest of his life—long after his father has passed away—trying to prove him wrong; trying to silence the critical voice of an unwise father. In his effort to win his father’s approval, the son forsakes his passion, the very thing he was made to do. Instead, he’s become a driven man.

Randy Komisar in his book, The Monk in the Riddle, makes an interesting distinction between drive and passion: “Passion pulls you toward something you cannot resist. Drive pushes you toward something you feel compelled or obligated to do. If you know nothing about yourself, you can’t tell the difference.”

That last line is incisive. Without healthy self-awareness drive looks like passion. Unlike passion where I’m living out of my internal wiring, drive is externally motivated. So if I’m out to satisfy anyone else’s agenda for me—even imagined—I’m undeniably driven. But by whom? These questions can help:

  • Whose compliment carries the most weight for me and do I seek ways to be complimented by them?
  • When I’m worried about what others might think of me, who first comes to mind?
  • When I’m self-critical, whose words does my internal dialogue most resemble?
  • Who would be the hardest person to face when I fail?
  • Who’s said something about me that I’m trying to prove or disprove?

To be sure, we’ll likely never rid ourselves entirely of drivenness, but these questions may help identify whose voice is inside your head.

What other questions have used to know if you are being driven?

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