The Circle Line

5 Things that Drive Us

What Drives You?

What Drives You?

Money, job security, fun, pleasure… The list could go on. But these are just some of the manifestations of deeper drives that we’ve carried with us a long, long, time. Since we were children. Since our thoughts were simpler, even if the times were scarier.

The thoughts and feelings we experienced as children eventually — after much repetition and testing on our part — produced in us some key beliefs and approaches to life, key motivations that we internalised. These “Drivers” (a catchy name coined by a therapy model called Transactional Analysis) seem to be universal — they are the five patterns of human behaviour that tend to occur regardless of age, sex or culture.

Our main Drivers are developed at a young age, by the approval or disapproval from the grownups around us. Some of the approval/disapproval messages that created them were verbal and many were subtler non-verbal messages that we received as kids. By testing our behaviour and seeing the response we got as kids, we learnt to adopt these Drivers to ensure acceptance and to feel ok about ourselves, to “survive” life. They are like our armbands. Sometimes they are very useful; without them in times of stress we can feel like we’re drowning. However, all of the Drivers all carry benefits and they can also be very limiting when we act them out through habit and out of awareness. We often display a variety of them in different situations, though we tend to favour two main ones.

So, see if you recognise yourself below…

1. PLEASE OTHERS (Please People)

Characteristics

Widened eyes; raised eyebrows; nodding; toothy smile; horizontal forehead lines; look up with head down; tone of voice goes up at the end of a sentence; qualifying words (sort of, kind of, ok); palms up gesture; reaching forwards; body moves forwards.

Benefits

Understanding and empathic. Considerate of others feelings. Good team members, enjoying being with others and aiming to please without asking. Use intuition. Notice body language and other more subtle communication signals. Encourage harmony in groups/teams. Invite quieter members into discussion.

Difficulties

Avoids any risk of upsetting someone and therefore challenging ideas or behaviour (even if justified). Cautious with criticism. Appears to lack commitment. Appears to lack assertiveness, critical faculties and courage of convictions. Takes criticism personally even if constructive. Allows others to interrupt. Presents own views as questions. Tries to mind-read instead of asking for necessary information and feeling misunderstood when others don’t like the results.

2. BE PERFECT

Characteristics

Upright erect posture. Precise. Words attempt accuracy. Even, steady tone. Looks up to right frequently. Mouth goes slightly out. Often over-detail and use parentheses. Counts on fingers. Steepling hands. Qualifies, such as saying “exactly”, “roughly”.

Benefits

Accurate, reliable work. Checks facts thoroughly. Looks ahead. Prepares well. Attention to detail. Well organised. Plans well and makes contingency plans. Smooth, efficient, well-co-ordinated projects with progress monitored. Cares about how things look.

Difficulties

May not be relied upon to produce work to deadlines as may check endlessly and too often for mistakes — asking for minor changes and doing drafts rather than final versions. Finds it difficult to incorporate others’ input. Misjudges level of detail. Applies high standards, always to self and others, failing to recognise when good enough is good enough. Demotivates with criticism. Problems delegating. May feel worthless and dissatisfied.

3. TRY HARD

Characteristics

Hand on side of cheek or behind ear; peering — lines on forehead and around eyes as a result of screwed up face. Tone strangled, tense, muffled, choked back. Incomplete sentences. Words such as try, hard, difficult, can’t think. Body moves forward.

Benefits

Tackles things enthusiastically. Energy peaks with something new to do. Others value their motivation and ability to get things off the ground. Popular. Problem solver. Volunteers for new tasks. Follows up all possibilities and finds out the implications. Pays attention to all aspects of a task, including what others overlook.

Difficulties

More committed to trying than succeeding. Initial interest wears off before task is finished. Others may resent not doing the interesting bits when they are left with the mundane bits. Makes task impossibly large. Creates difficulty with time schedule. Written work contains lots of irrelevant details. Communication may be pained, strained and frowning — listeners become confused. Too many questions given — answers don’t relate to questions asked. Gripes. Sabotages.

4. BE STRONG

Characteristics

Erect, stoical posture; body defended, still, rigid. Face expressionless, few wrinkles. Monotone, long pauses, short sentences. Uses “fine”, “one”, “it” — absence of feeling words and uses distancing pronouns.

Benefits

Stays calm under pressure. Feels energised when having to cope. Good in a crisis. Thinks logically when others panic. Keeps emotions in check, problem solves, deals with stressed people. Can make unpleasant decisions without torturing self. Seen as reliable and steady. Handles others firmly and fairly. Gives honest feedback and constructive criticism. Even tempered.

Difficulties

Hates admitting weakness: sees failure to cope as weakness. Gets overlooked rather than ask for help. Highly self-critical. Others uncomfortable about lack of emotional responses — hard to get to know robots or masked people whose smile does not extend to eyes. Fears being unlovable, so doesn’t ask for anything, in case it’s refused. Mind flits in circular motion. Hides work away — tidy appearance. May become absent minded. May withdraw.

5. HURRY UP

Characteristics

Agitated gestures (looking at watch, fidgeting, tapping foot etc). Screwed up face, eyes moving around. Rapid staccato tone. Words such as quick, got to, and time words.

Benefits

Works quickly and gets a lot done in a short time. Responds well to short deadlines — energy peaks under pressure. Enjoys having too many things to do. Believes if you want something done give it to a busy person. Prepares quickly, saves time on tasks. Juggles.

Difficulties

Delays until deadline is near. Makes mistakes in haste; corrections can take time and so misses deadline. Quality of work may be poor. May come across as impatient. Rushes with crammed diary, forgets things, frequently late. Doesn’t get to know people, feels an outsider.

Taking the Driving Seat

Of course these drivers are layered in with our various other experiences and — importantly — all the things we’ve learnt that we mustn’t do or be (for more on this see our post on The Injunctions). They aren’t a complete blueprint but they can reveal insistent patterns that are, well, sometimes just downright exhausting.

Quite why we’ve adopted these drivers is a whole other ball game, for you to explore…

But a first step is that we see them in ourselves. Because then we can practise whether we keep doing them, if they’re helping us and making us happy, or not, if they’re not. By recognising them in ourselves they lose some of their super-charged power. They become the fancy dashboard or the go-faster stripes that we choose when and how to apply.

They don’t have to actually drive us; we can take the driver’s seat instead.

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