The following is adapted from “Stop Chasing Squirrels: 6 Essentials to Find Your Purpose, Focus, and Flow“ by Ted Bradshaw. Copyright 2022 by Lioncrest Publishing.
When I was a young businessman, chasing possibilities didn’t seem like a bug of the system, but a feature. I was wide open, pedal to the floor, going after new business ideas and quickly shifting directions like a hockey player skating down the ice with the time about to expire. Which, by the way, was part of my identity back in the day.
I was an entrepreneur. One of these directions, or maybe several of them, would hit pay dirt. It didn’t particularly matter to me which of them did. That was my idea of what an entrepreneur is—someone who sees openings, grabs them, monetizes them, then moves on to the next big thing.
But eventually, I came to a crisis point. I experienced a couple of panic attacks, seemingly out of nowhere. My inner life was in chaos, yet somehow I was the last to know—my body got the message to me through these two terrible experiences that felt like heart attacks.
It was time to take stock of my life. Over time, and through facing up to certain hard truths for the first time, I came to realize I was a driven individual. The panic attacks were my body getting an urgent message through to my heart and soul: This path wasn’t sustainable. It was killing me.
I didn’t want to be driven anymore. I did a lot of thinking about the right word, the one that described what I did want—and I came up with this one: guided. Here’s why.
The driven life
If you google the word “driven,” you’ll find a lot of information about the habits of highly motivated individuals. Being driven is generally presented as a positive thing, the description of those who have a high energy to get things done.
Driven is one of those ambiguous words that can be used positively or negatively—like the word pride, for example. It’s good to be proud of our children, or to take pride in our work. Yet pride is also listed as a sin! It’s all about the nature of the pride, isn’t it? Drivenness is similar. It’s a positive or a negative depending on the driver.
The problem comes in how and why a person might be motivated. Not every goal or source of emotional drive is a healthy one. Some driver is pushing us to our limits in order to get certain things done. It could be a sense of competition. Or it could be some need to prove ourselves, or live up to someone’s expectations. Perhaps for a few minutes or a few days, it’s possible to experience a sense of accomplishment. But then the driven person starts feeling that pressure again.
Many driven people don’t rest well. They don’t care for their health as they should. Nor do they give enough thought to the people around them who are pulled along by this unrelenting course of rugged effort. Eventually, those with an unhealthy drive tend to burn out. They come to that point at which it’s suddenly clear the goalposts are going to keep moving and the finish line will keep edging toward the horizon. Then something just cracks. They can’t do it anymore.
Being driven is letting the wind blow our boat every which way. It’s being powered and directed by that merciless outside gust of wind. When we’re driven, it feels, at first, as if we’re going somewhere; we’re on the move, maybe even fast. But the hidden truth is that you’re not the one setting the direction. In the end, you end up way off course. Lost. Confused.
Being driven is letting the wind blow our boat every which way.
I asked myself how I like to be treated when I’m going places. There might be some meeting I need to go to, but I’m not too excited about it. You could get me there, I suppose, by threatening me. You could use a high-pressure sales approach. You could try frightening me into going, because of what I might miss.
Maybe you’d be successful, but I don’t really do well with that kind of pressure. I’d rather someone reason with me, tell me why the meeting’s important, and give me good, solid encouragement that I should go because it’s a very worthy meeting and I’ll love what happens there. In other words, I don’t want to be driven. I want to be guided.
The guided life
Let’s go sailing. We talked about being driven by ill winds. The idea is that we’re going somewhere, but we’re being controlled by outside forces. That’s being driven. Being guided is taking the initiative to bring a map—to adjust the sail and the rudder, to take up the oars, and to direct the vessel to a destination you’ve carefully chosen.
Driven people tend to be unaware of the drivers. They’re slaves to unknown masters. But guided people decide their own direction. And what guides them? A sense of purpose. It’s possible, of course, to be guided by an unworthy purpose. You might be planning to rob a bank, and you might take a thoughtful, well-organized, efficient course toward a successful robbery. Obviously, that’s not what we’re describing.
We all know there are healthy, worthy purposes. I believe everyone in the world has a purpose, and it’s just the right fit for who we are—our talents, our temperaments, our values, and everything else about us. Finding and moving toward that ideal purpose is the surest formula for happiness and contentment. It’s the exchange of my life and time for that which brings me the greatest joy and also makes the most positive difference in this world.
Being guided is taking the initiative to bring a map—to adjust the sail and the rudder, to take up the oars, and to direct the vessel to a destination you’ve carefully chosen.
In my case, I found that I wasn’t on that path. My purpose was not to create x number of new businesses or make y dollars in profit. It was not to build a kingdom dedicated to my sense of ambition.
I know I’ve found my purpose for life. I’m guided by a deep and abiding passion for helping other people find their own unique purpose. It wasn’t about me after all, in one sense, but about inspiring others. Yet ironically, because I’ve chosen this path and geared it to my gifts, it’s actually a lot more about me than when I believed it was all about me. If that makes sense! The point is, I’m personally the happiest when I’m invested in the happiness of others. I know exactly what I want to do and how I want to do it, and each day is another mile in that direction.
Goals? They’re still there, but they look and feel different. My life is organized in a disciplined and orderly way around shorter- and longer-term goals that are thoughtfully based on my life focus.
The journey begins
Unfortunately, you can’t skip the parts of your life when the boat seems to be tossed about because that’s where the journey really begins. You may be there right now. You have to face the “ill winds” that threaten to blow you off course.
But there’s also no reason to be discouraged. All of this is fuel. These tougher times are the ones that help us grow the most. I’d never be where I am now if I hadn’t struggled through my own crises. I had to see what it was like and how it felt to lead a purposeless life.
There is hope. Rest assured, you can find the purpose that will guide you if you’re willing to seek it.
For more advice on being guided, you can purchase “Stop Chasing Squirrels” on Amazon via StartupNation below.