Driven to Success or Running from Failure: Which is the Better Motivator?

Throughout my life, I’ve often been called an inspiration. While I’m accustomed to the flattering title now, I can’t say I’m comfortable with it. I have a variety of reasons for this, but the biggest one is that I haven’t made any of my pursuits because of extraordinary ambition or talent. Rather, I’ve done it all with one of the few goals everybody shares—to be happy and fulfilled.

That motivation, in itself, has given me the needed boost to strive for a productive life. As highlighted in the About page, my parents didn’t raise me to focus on my limitations. They adapted opportunities instead of denying them, so I’ve always seen more prospects for myself than others might. Those prospects usually need some tweaks, but my upbringing gave me the willpower to make them.

At the same time, I must admit I’ve always had something to prove. As discussed in previous posts, people stereotype me because of my Cerebral Palsy, and from an early age, I’ve been eager to prove them wrong. I’ve even wanted to prove professionals’ expectations wrong. For instance, my neurologist told my parents I may start to walk on my own by my late teens. My competitive and contrary soul, however, yearned to blow that prediction out of the water by walking before I hit thirteen. Though I didn’t accomplish that, I still relished in beating his prediction by a few years.

Fast-forward to my early adulthood, and I had ever more to prove. I graduated seventh in my high school class, so there were differing opinions on what path I should pursue. I disappointed some by not going to college, and this led several—with good intentions—to plot out my ‘Plan B.’

One professional I was required to meet with offered options that do help many but that didn’t fit in with the life neither my family nor I had in mind. She didn’t seem to appreciate our declining her suggestions, and initially, I was crushed by her bleak view of my future and potential. Once the emotion wore off, my misery turned to determination to have a better life and career than she could imagine.

Returning to the theme of this post, I’m unsure if one would say I’m a driven individual or just a rascally and stubborn mule! In light of my confessions, am I really an inspiration?

No need to assure me either way, as I don’t truly aspire to be one. Like I stated earlier, I’ve reached for my achievements for my own well-being, and that’s still the case. I’m no more certain of my future triumphs or failures than anyone is, so I take the steps I can today to better my life tomorrow.

To answer the question in the title, I believe one needs to both reach for success and run from failure. In some instances, one is stronger than the other, but coupled together, they keep us focused to continue in our endeavors. Like a quirky and complex Rube Goldberg machine, we all need pushes and pulls of one sort or another in our quest for success.


Photo credit: Flickr

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