Drives & Desire

“Effort and courage are not enough without purpose and direction.”

— John F Kennedy

Drive can be defined as an urge or a force to move in a specified direction. This can vary in people. Some are more driven than others. Some have strong internal drivers, for example, pursuit of knowledge, mastery or enjoyment. Others are driven by external factors such as money, rewards or recognition by others. It is often down to the individual themselves as to which drivers are more powerful. There is no set recipe for which source of drive is better for success. But in my opinion, it is likely that internal drivers are more resistant to the challenges we may face in the pursuit of high performance. However, one thing that we can all agree on is that drive is essential for high performance.

So, if we all agree that drive is important and that people have it in different amounts, where’s the win? Where can we make a change to have a performance impact for ourselves? I believe it is in the direction of the drive. It would be easy to appear driven in all that we do. Staying up late. Being first in the office. Volunteering for tasks. Piling more and more on our plates. But does this equate to successful performance? Probably not. In fact the key is in understanding how we can direct our drive to maximise our performances. This may differ with the various performance moments we experience. But fundamentally, we can ask ourselves some simple questions to help us direct our drive and our next actions;

Where do I want to end up?

Will this activity or task positively add to my end goal? 

Do I have the time / energy to do this?

We can often think we are driven. But if this has no direction, our efforts will potentially be fruitless. Or at best, not as effective as they could be. Ultimately, I like to ask myself ‘is the juice worth the squeeze?’. Will the outcome of any task or activity be worth the potential effort and energy exerted? If the answer is ‘yes’, then I have a clear direction in which to focus my drive – and off I go. Equally, if the answer is ‘no’, it gives us some real clarity to our decision making. Knowing the plan, the goal and the process are vital to success and will help apply our ‘drive’ in a more purposeful way. A real game changer was when I directed my drive to all areas of my performance. It can be easy to be driven in the obvious moments; the gym, the lake or indeed, the office. But it was only when I became equally focused on my rest and recovery, that I saw a leap; not only in the gains I made, but in the energy I had available for other important moments. So, don’t neglect the less obvious areas of your performance; nutrition, hydration, rest and recovery. By applying the same questioning to these you just might see further performance gains.

Understanding our own drive and how we can better direct it to maximise performance means we can potentially unlock another key aspect of performance; desire. If our desire to complete something is high we can then utilise our drive to complete it to a higher standard. As a consequence we will see better results plus we enjoy the journey more along the way. 

What if the desire is not there? Imagine the tasks that we all have to do but don’t always enjoy. The necessary but dull bits and bobs of life that can, and will, positively impact performance if we get them right. The challenge here is; how do you find desire if the task at hand, and direction required, doesn’t float your boat? (‘scuse the pun). In this instance, I believe understanding the purpose and potential value of the task allows us to build the required desire and drive to complete it to a high standard. It’s all about self-care, really. Taking some time to do the less exciting tasks that will look after us and allow us the extra energy to complete the tasks we really desire. We will reap the rewards of feeling empowered. More energetic. Happier. Not to mention a little bit smug when we don’t have to reach for that pre-packed meal or sugary snack, which would only smack us in the face with a sugar low just when we need to focus.

In essence, drive and desire are fundamental to each other and to high performance. By unlocking our ability to both understand and influence the direction of each, we ultimately seek out challenges in which to test or prove our abilities, be more content with our efforts and endeavours and give ourselves a greater chance of succeeding in our moment. 

Coaching Question

Focus: What can you focus your drive on (and control) that will impact your performance?


List: Make a list of your drivers and put the list in priority order.

This article is based on the Amazon No.1 Hot New Release in HR, The A–Z of Human Performance. For more coaching questions and habituators on this topic and 25 more chapters from Jonna Sercombe, Emma Wiggs, and Steve Eaton, pick up a copy in paperback or eBook.