Random Musings

Drive, and the Perception and Comparison Surrounding It

I’m not 100% sure where this post is going to go, only that I know I want to write it; mostly to get my own thoughts down and just…respond, really. So apologies in advance if this post doesn’t make a lick of sense.

I spent the afternoon the other day with my Mom, eating lunch before going to my apartment’s pool and swimming for a couple of hours. It was a positively lovely afternoon and I’m itching to do that again with her. While we were catching up, I can’t remember exactly what we were talking about (I believe it was working out or something to that affect) and eventually, she made an offhanded comment, saying, “You must be a pain to live with.”

Not menacing, not harmful or even mean. She was laughing as she said it and I wasn’t hurt at all. I’m still not. Basically, that comment was referencing the fact that, I am so goal driven and so To-Do list oriented that, if I want to accomplish something, I usually do it. Especially in the last two years or so, when I started actively seeking out steps and making progress on all the goals I created over the aspects in my life I wanted to achieve something in: health, working out, eating better, blogging, writing, reading, learning Spanish, budgeting money, etc. I mean, sure, I have lazy days or weeks when I don’t accomplish as much as I wanted to or even fall flat on my face in “failure,” but I’ve developed a routine and a system to where, usually, I’m able to achieve what I’d like to.

My Mom’s comment was basically saying how it must be difficult for others to be around me because of this mentality and drive, because it’s not common.

Usa Network Burton Guster GIF by Psych
I mean, this is a lot more common of how someone might spent their time when they aren’t at work, instead of trying to fit in the latest workout or writing session. And you know what? Either one is totally okay.

So it was both an observation and a compliment twisted into one comment.

Yet it was also eye opening for me?

You see, I’m pretty transparent on this blog. Through posts like my Quest for Discovery Series, where I write about my weekly goal progress, to most of the posts in my “Random Musing” category, I talk about these successes, sure, but more often than not, I talk about the struggle: the guilt trip I cause myself when I don’t achieve what I want, the desire to be lazy mashed with the desire to keep up this insane drive, the stress when life gets in the way and suddenly the best laid plans are just another line in the slipped up chapter. I have a very intense drive and strong willpower, sure. But it does take work to maintain and I’m not perfect at doing so.

Yet, to others, to strangers, even to the people closest to me, it may seem like I’m perfect. Or I have my shit together. Or that I’m always doing things or achieving things that they don’t.

It’s both true and it isn’t.

And thus, the complications.

Usa Network Thumbs Up GIF by Psych
Because when aren’t there complications?

I pondered over this comment for a while, after my Mom left. To the point where I asked my boyfriend, who I probably spent the most time with regularly, how my drive makes him feel. Proud, for sure, but also a little guilty, because he doesn’t always chase after the goals he wants, yet here I am doing so daily. Which, in turn, didn’t make me feel great. Yet I don’t want him to feel like he has suddenly start doing all these extra activities he’s not interested in doing simply to “keep up” with me, just like I know he doesn’t want me to stop chasing my dreams and goals just so he doesn’t feel guilty for not sharing the same drive each day. Because I don’t want to stop the way I live. Honestly, I can’t. I won’t achieve what I want to if I don’t put in this work. It’s too important to me to give up on it, especially since I’m not always going to have that consistency I strive for and other people might see, thanks to what I share on social media or how they perceive my life (transparency aside, even).

Which, I guess, brings me to the conclusion of all these jumbled thoughts. Perception and comparison aren’t always your friend. It all depends how you use them. For someone to look at me and be like, “Wow, her drive is incredible. I wish I had that. What can I learn from her in order to create my own version of that success?” That’s a good use of it, I think. Potentially. Saying, “Wow, her drive is incredible. I must be a shit human being because I don’t share the same drive naturally and I don’t want to change to mimic it,” is not okay, productive or healthy. Because someone who is super driven, like me, isn’t any better than someone who doesn’t overload themselves with extra work, lots of goals and too many commitments (like me), who instead goes to work or school and then comes home and watches TV until they get up and do it over again. That isn’t lazy. It’s a lifestyle choice. Both lifestyles have value. Both lifestyles are important to those who live them and they should be able to live the one they want without feeling lesser when they compare themselves to how others live. Comparison can be motivational and inspiring, but it can also be toxic and a waste of time. Don’t fall into the trap of the latter.

Perception is the same kind of demon. Someone could totally look at me, a girl who has develop skills so that I usually hit my writing goal for the day (so I can write a first draft of a novel in two-three months) and runs on average four times a week; look at me and be like, “Whoa, she totally has her shit together and I can’t believe that comes naturally to her.” They look and don’t realize the work that it has taken for me to reach this point. How I’ve battled for 20+ years before I finally formed habits and found tricks that clicked for me. They don’t realize that, while I may look successful, in that light, I’m over here, finding myself lesser, because I see authors posting about writing 2,000 a day and that’s considered their off day (which, to me, is a peak performance). Or scrolling through Instagram and seeing posts of strong women achieving their weight loss goals and still staring at the scale, wondering why I haven’t dropped a pound in months. Despite what others see, I still find ways to see myself as lesser, jealous of what others can accomplish and wondering what I’m doing wrong.

Hard stop, here.

Usa Network Television GIF by Psych
Because honestly, you should never be ashamed about eating. Especially when eating involves nachos.

I think, what I’m trying to get at with this mammoth of a post, is that every journey is different and every vision of success, of happiness, of life, is different. As it should be. Comparison and perception are not always our friends and just because someone seems to have their shit together, doesn’t mean they always do or that it’s easy to do. Or just because someone seems like their life is chaotic, doesn’t necessarily mean that’s a bad thing; not to them, at any rate. Just because you aren’t where someone else is, doesn’t mean where you are has any less value. And just because you want to be where someone else is, doesn’t mean you can’t get there one day, in your own time, in your own way.

For me, my happiness is tied directly to how consistently driven I stay (and with how forgiving I am towards myself when my drive falters). On the whole, I’m happier when my goals are met and I have lofty ones. I’m busy, I’m (over)committed and I have a lot of areas I focus on. And that’s exactly how I want it. That’s okay. Just like how it’s okay if I decided I want to take a step back and let go of that drive, relax a little more. Or if I wanted to step it up a notch and become even more focused. What’s important is that I’m happy with how I’m living my life, aware of how others might perceive that and how it effects them, empathetic and nonjudgmental towards others and their choices, and constantly wiling to evolve, adapt and learn through all of it.


5 thoughts on “Drive, and the Perception and Comparison Surrounding It”

  1. This reminds me of some similar thoughts I’ve been working with.
    Recently I watched a TED talk about comparison, focusing on envy and other “dark” forms of it, and that started me on some interesting thoughts, which in some ways feel reminiscent of yours.

    I thought about experiments, and how scientists ensure that only one variable is allowed to change, so that they can understand what variable actually causes a different result.

    But every person’s life is a combination of so many variables that it’s nigh impossible to truly “compare oneself to another”.
    But, unlike the video, I don’t think comparison in general is bad.
    I agree with you that it can be good, if it’s a source of inspiration.

    I think part of the key is letting go of concrete comparisons.
    For example, I might say “I want to be like Nicole, writing several hundred words per writing session”, but I might not be someone who is well suited to that.
    Or I could say “Wow, by working at writing every day, Nicole has created some amazing pieces. I wonder what I could produce if I worked at writing every day?”

    The emphasis becomes “what would my experience be like” and “what would the outcome be” rather than trying to recreate what someone else has achieved.
    As you say “in your own way” is the key, along with remaining open to the “discovery” of what will come out of the effort.
    It’s the discovery that drives us, the question “what will come out of this?”

    Thanks for sharing.

    1. Ooooh, Adam, I positively love how you spin it, with the “What could I do…” mentality with the “what would my experience be like,” in terms of comparison. That’s such a healthy way to view it and spin those comparisons! I really, really like that and I’m definitely going to remember that. Thank you for sharing!

  2. This is wonderful! I’ve always been super driven but I have hit a new season of life with kids where my priorities have shifted away from me and toward them. I need to remind myself (daily) that my kids arnt driven, they are learning. I remind myself (daily) that my success are defined differently than they used to be. And it’s OK (seriously it is). And that mental shift has allowed me to breathe and be present over perfect the way I need to be now, the drive will arise again later. I have not quit. I still write and query. But the shift has allowed me to have fun again and it’s a sweet experience. Thank you for sharing!

    1. Aww, Hannah, hearing your experience with driving and how it evolves over time was seriously a pleasure to read! I can only imagine how having kids has changed your focus–and understandably and nobly so! But it’s also awesome that you’re not beating yourself up over it and instead, you’re embracing it and realizing that it doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Good for you, that’s fantastic!! Thank you for sharing that with me. 🙂

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