Power steering


Ambitious people are used to making things work. Their efforts may have to be extended or dialed up, and it may take multiple attempts and strategy shifts, but they are set on getting where they’re going. It’s just a matter of when. When you think about it, it’s strange that we call people like this “driven,” when really, they’re driving. Or, at least that’s what they think.

By “they,” I mean you. Well…us, really. 

There’s a really tidy equation a lot of us have in our heads that goes something like: motivation + work = outcome. That’s how it’s supposed to work, right?


Sometimes, that’s exactly how things go. Other times, the equation doesn’t hold up. We do everything “right” and the outcome is all “wrong.”

(Quotes because sometimes, in hindsight, our assessment of the situation may change our perspective on each of those qualities. In other words, broken hearts can eventually transform into blessings in disguise.)

The illusion here is less, however, about the input and output, and more about the amount of control we have over any given chain of events. We like equations because they’re supposed to be reliable. If we take A and add B, we’ll get C, without variation. It lines up on paper, so it should play out in life. Except for when it doesn’t, and we get upset – not just because we didn’t get what we wanted, or expected, but because we feel out of control. We’re afraid of the implications of the unpredictable. We’re hard-wired to be prepared. We like to see what’s coming, and conquer our way right through it when It arrives.

Unpredictability makes us feel vulnerable, and we don’t like that. We do everything we can to avoid it, with the slight complication that we actually can’t avoid it.

Life is designed to trip you up. It’s not meant to be a straight line of perfect equations, always adding up. There will be roadblocks, detours, and even a few surprise shortcuts. You don’t get to know everything that’s coming. While it’s perfectly acceptable, and advisable, to plan for what you think or hope is coming next, you have to leave a little part of the agenda open for “miscellaneous other possibilities.” Undefined, open-ended, TBD possibilities.

The magic isn’t so much in figuring out what they might be, as in knowing that whatever they are, you are equipped to take a deep breath, and be present there for them. It’s not the course of your life that you’re here to master – it’s yourself.

Photo credit: Osman Rana

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