By Jon Patton – July 9, 2019

Sometimes we simply assume that we know what it means to be successful. Jackie Serviss thought she was a success.

Jackie applied the high-performance standards and energetic drive she possessed as a child to her corporate career, and she became a successful executive. But there was still more runway ahead that she was driven to cover.

Jackie’s story, featured in the video below, was familiar to me through my relationships with leaders I’ve worked with as clients. It was also familiar through my own personal experience. It seems that many of us are driven toward success.

We want bigger jobs that give us more power and more influence.

We strive for careers that enable us to indulge in all the personal trappings that prove to others that we are, indeed, successful. Unfortunately, for many of us, eventually a crisis hits.

In Jackie’s case, the crisis was a diagnosis of a brain tumor. The diagnosis came after Jackie experienced a long period of time feeling that something was not quite right. Like many others, she ignored the feeling and pushed ahead. In my own case, I was on a parallel journey to Jackie’s in my corporate career.

The feeling manifested for me as questions such as, Was this it? Is this what life is about?

For the most part, I ignored these questions, just as Jackie did. And like Jackie, I was diagnosed with a serious medical condition – ulcerative colitis.

People I’ve worked with have had less extreme consequences – at least, in the beginning. Some had difficulty sleeping, while others felt stressed and anxious. Some people turned to excessive behaviors by eating too much, drinking too much … you can fill in the blank.

They reacted by behaving poorly and as a result, many experienced challenged relationships. In most cases, these behaviors were symptoms that were preceded by a feeling that all was not well with the world. Excesses such as these are often manifestations of our subconscious mind trying to quell an uncomfortable feeling.

What is driving us?

People can be driven by subconscious beliefs that you may have heard referred to as our “conditioned responses” or our “programmed responses”. I have often heard people describe themselves or others as driven, as if being driven were a positive attribute. The question is, being driven by what? The answer to that question is, we’re always driven by our subconscious beliefs about what it means to be successful.

These subconscious beliefs are often a reflection of society, the influence of advertising and/or the adherence to other people’s expectations of us.

At the heart of the problem is the fact that we may believe that we are not good enough.

We allow ourselves to be driven in order to prove to others, through our achievements, that our belief in our inadequacy is not true. Jackie described this as looking for external validation by placing her worth in the hands of others.

It turns out that our subconscious beliefs really do cause us to be driven by others. The unfortunate result is that we are not consciously participating in the ride. Our beliefs, rather than our true selves, are in the driver’s seat.

So how do we wrestle back control of the steering wheel?

The first thing to do is to stop and take notice of the feeling that something is wrong and resist the urge to push it away. Jackie described how this required her to look straight ahead and go in search of the truth.

After attending Stop At Nothing courses, most people leave with a clarity about what is really important to them. They start making conscious choices about how they want to lead their lives.

People then start to feel empowered because they can now begin to move into the driver’s seat and nudge the imposter – their unconscious beliefs – aside.

There are few people in corporate life who assume responsibility for their own choices. Along with the seminars we offer, there are steps you can take right now to help you set aside your programmed responses and start allowing your true self to move into the driver’s seat.

We have created a worksheet which you can download and use to start the process.

Six Steps to Put your True Self in Charge

Here are the steps you can take to put your true self in the driver’s seat and stop being driven by the expectations of others:

Step 1:

Take a good hard look at what is working, and what is not. The first step is to select one of the five important elements of success where you feel you are falling short of the mark, and capture your thoughts by writing your personal assessment.

Step 2:

This next step may appear a bit morbid, but it can be effective and empowering. Imagine that someone is about to read your eulogy. Write down what you would like them to say. This exercise allows you to be clear about the things that are really important, while you can do something about it.

Step 3:

Look at your answer to Step 2 and extract the key themes. These themes are your core values, the things that are most important to you. It is always interesting to note what is included here and what isn’t. Are there any surprises?

Step 4:

Think about how you are behaving in your life right now. Is your behavior consistent with the values you identified?

Step 5:

This question is about taking personal responsibility. Determine all the excuses and rationalizations that you make for not taking action more in concert with your values.

Step 6:

The final step is to name one action that you can take in order to act in harmony with your values. People often think that exercises such as these need to be a major overhaul of life. At Stop At Nothing, it is our experience that small adjustments can lead to big changes. These small adjustments can make a significant, positive impact on the quality of your life.

If you Stop Being Driven, Will you Become Less Effective?

People often believe that if they remove the inner fear that drives them, they will not be as successful in their career.

They are afraid that they will become “chill” individuals who are too relaxed and too comfortable. However, acting in concert with the things that are truly important will reduce stress and improve our peace of mind. Both these attributes are characteristics of high performers, since stress impacts our health and the absence of peace of mind does not allow us to think clearly.

When we act consciously by responding rather than simply reacting, we can begin to choose the most effective way of behaving. We can stop reacting out of built-up stress or fear, even in difficult work situations.

Very often we find ourselves looking at things in “either-or-terms” – either success, or fulfillment.

Think about whether you have peace of mind, or if your mind is constantly filled with thoughts, ruminating about the past or anticipating the future with dread. Do you get a good night’s sleep?

Do you have harmonious relationships with important people in your life, and do you spend enough time with the people you love? Do you harbor grudges and expect others to make the first move?

Clearly this is a journey, and not an easy one, in the busy worlds in which we live.

Living in concert with the values that are most important to us is one of the biggest responsibilities we all have. It is important to start making small adjustments, right now.

After all, who among us has a contract that says we will live forever?

Set aside your “programmed responses” and start allowing your true self to move into the driver’s seat.