Now that you’re familiar with the baseline drives, let’s move on to the next five drives – the forward drives, which are about living into the future and fulfilling your dreams.
The first one is change.
Biologically speaking, we’re used to change. In our first years of life, we transform from a helpless baby into a walking, talking being, and from there into a self-aware adult. As adults, we continue to change; the cells in our body are constantly being replaced by new ones, and our brain is constantly seeking new stimuli.
But even though change is normal, we still tend to find it scary, in large part because we fear loss. Or, to be more precise, we fear that we’ll lose more than we stand to gain.
For instance, let’s say you’re offered a new position at work, but it requires a transfer to a different department. You might well decline, fearing that a transfer will strip you of the perks and power of your current position, and drive a wedge between you and your work friends.
Instead of focusing on fears of loss, however, you should consider the potential gains. In this case, you might find the new position more satisfying, you might meet new and interesting people and may make even more money.
We also fear change because of a lack of clarity.
Most people don’t know what they want in life, usually for no other reason than not knowing what their options are. For instance, college graduates are often at a loss, not because they don’t know which path to pick, but because they don’t know which paths are available.
So, research your options. If you’re a recent graduate, check out websites of companies you find interesting and learn about how the people you admire most got where they are today. Then, create a list of the things you do and don’t want in life. For example, if you love your leisure, don’t pursue a career that’ll require you to work late and on weekends.
Maybe you’ve pushed your physical limits and managed to run a marathon. Or maybe you’ve challenged your intellect and written an A+ midterm essay. All of us have faced difficult tasks, and most of us are familiar with the extremely satisfying feeling of rising to a challenge and overcoming it. Well, that’s what the seventh drive – challenge – is all about.
Before we get down to brass tacks, however, we’ve got to differentiate between challenges and goals. A goal isn’t necessarily a big deal; it can be something small, like taking the dog for a walk or doing the laundry. A challenge, on the other hand, is difficult by definition. To overcome it, you’ll have to put in everything you’ve got – skills and effort.
So, when setting yourself challenges, make sure that they’re really challenges, not just goals. Try challenging yourself every month for the next year: draw 12 boxes on a piece of paper and write a challenge in each.
For example, do you usually use notes when you have to give a presentation? Go without them next time. Do you usually play tennis against similarly skilled opponents? Play against someone who’s obviously better. Or perhaps you want to improve your social skills? Well, concentrate on listening for a month, or on being a team player.
Whenever a new month starts, start the next challenge. But whatever the challenges you set for yourself, don’t let the judgment of others prevent you from committing to them.
It’s common to worry that your friends or coworkers won’t support you in your challenge, that they’ll secretly be hoping you fail. But, in truth, people are much more likely to root for you than against you.
For example, how many times do you think the average middle-aged person has experienced truly painful rejection? Well, the author has been all over the world and asked hundreds of middle-aged audiences this very question. The answer: seven times.
The number of times these audiences experienced encouragement and support from others? Almost a thousand times! Clearly, fears of judgment are seriously unfounded.
The eighth drive, creative expression, usually peters out when we hit adulthood, which is too bad because it comes with many benefits – both personal and professional. Indeed, creativity is extremely important to one’s sense of self. It not only makes it easier to form more meaningful connections, it also deepens one’s understanding of oneself.
Creativity is an especially valuable asset in today’s business world, which is driven by innovation and design. In his book, The Rise of the Creative Class, Richard Florida explains that, at the turn of the twentieth century, less than one-tenth of Americans were engaged in creative work.
By the turn of the twenty-first century, that number had risen to one-third. In order to compete, current companies need creative employees. But before you can start improving your creativity, you’ve got to establish how well you already express it.
Here’s a simple test that’ll help you do that:
On a scale of zero (not at all) to ten (completely), how much do you agree with the following questions?
1. Does the interior style of your home reflect your personality?
2. Is your work representative of who you are?
3. Do you feel heard in your relationship? Does your partner value your interests?
4. Is your personality an important part of your friendships?
5. Do your hobbies represent your interests?
6. Are you contributing to the world?
These questions are meant to measure your creative expression in everyday life. If you scored less than 45, you should start working on this topic.
And the best way to do that is to start creating. Creativity is hard work that requires discipline. Got an idea for a novel? Start writing. Think you could become an abstract painter? Start painting. And if people don’t like what you produce, don’t give up – double down instead. Every artist started somewhere, and mistakes are simply part of mastery. So get started, get feedback and don’t let setbacks get you down.
If you could choose, would you rather work at a shoe outlet or at an institute dedicated to cancer research? Well, if you’re like most people, you want your work to have meaning. You want to feel that, by working there, you’re giving back to the world. So you’d probably choose curing cancer over peddling kicks.
But activating the ninth drive, contribution, doesn’t necessarily entail seeking employment at a laudable organization; it can simply mean doing something you enjoy. If there’s something you love doing, and you truly give it your all, then contribution is the inevitable outcome.
For instance, the author once met a bank manager who felt she’d never truly be able to contribute to the world. Everyone said she had to “give back” – but she loved her job too much to quit and take up a nobler cause.
But then the author discovered something. The bank manager’s employees all thought she was the best boss; she took their problems seriously and was a source of inspiration. She may not have worked for an NGO, but by doing what she loved, she did make a contribution.
You can also contribute to a cause you’re passionate about. This contribution can take many forms – skills, time, money or other resources. What’s important is that you feel that your contribution is making an impact and encouraging positive change.
For instance, let’s say there are two organizations: one helps feed hungry children in Nigeria, but the only way you can contribute is by washing dishes in a backroom where you never see the children; the other helps kids in public school learn to sing, and you can contribute by teaching them directly.
Even if you prefer the former organization, you might want to consider dedicating time to the latter, since you’ll be able to see the immediate impact of your presence. What does it mean to be conscious? Is it to completely occupy the current moment, to experience our surroundings with our senses and to enjoy complete self-awareness? Well, yes – but that’s thought consciousness, and it’s only one side of the consciousness coin.
There’s also transcendent consciousness, the feeling that we’re surrounded by a greater something, an energy that connects all life and even holds together the universe itself. For arguably all of human history, we’ve sought both kinds of consciousness, the tenth and final drive.
To foster the first kind, try to be more conscious of the thoughts you have.
Most of our time is spent thinking about random and unimportant things. We’re controlled by our impulses, and we follow threads of thought that lead nowhere. So, if you want to achieve “thought consciousness,” you’ll have to focus your mind.
You can, for example, try what the author did. He set an alarm at three-hour intervals, and every time it went off he asked himself: what shall I focus on right now? This improved his productivity, reengaged his attention and put him back at the helm of his thoughts, which he’d allowed to drift away far too often.
You can work on the second kind of consciousness by appreciating the world’s small wonders. Modern life is such a maze of distractions that we rarely take the time to stop and appreciate everyday sights and objects. Some of us will go into a rage if our cell phone loses connectivity. But if you stop to think about it, it’s no small miracle to begin with that this tiny device can connect our voice to the voice of a loved one, or function as a portal to the internet, which is a miracle of equal magnitude.
Take a moment to marvel at such things, and you’ll feel more connected to the world. Just as we may feel renewed affection for our partner when we take a moment to register how kind or beautiful or smart he or she is, we feel closer to the universe and all life when we consciously notice how amazing it is.
Once you’ve reached this level of consciousness, it won’t be hard to stay charged.
Everyone can live a happy, fulfilled life. All you have to do is activate the ten human drives that constitute the foundation of happiness and fulfillment. Once you incorporate them all into your life, you’ll feel more motivated, more socially connected and more confident than ever before.