Who Is in Your Driver’s Seat – or Do You Really Want to Be a Donkey?

Personal Development
Donkey and wagon

Do you often wonder, why people do the things they do?

  • Why do they stick with situations they can’t stand?
  • Why do they make the same mistakes several times?
  • Why do they go for the same partner although they left their last one for exactly that behaviour?
  • Why is it that people can’t stick to their new years promises for more than some days?

In essence: Why don’t we do what we want to do – or who the damn is in the driver’s seat of our lives?

Have you ever been in the situation of being in the passenger seat of a car when you felt quite uncomfortable being there? Instead you wanted to get control over the car but were bound to the wrong seat.

If you really reflect on it, you might agree that very often our conscious will wants to be the driver, but very often finds itself on the passenger seat.

So the question is, who is the driver most of the time, and how can we get him to go, where we want to go?

Who Is the Driver of Our Life-Car?

The driver – if we stick with the analogy – is our subconscious mind.

This in itself is most of the time a good design, since it is much better suited for our survival (it’s prime directive) than our conscious mind.

Think about how stressful only a few minutes would be for you, if you had to control by your consciousness all the aspects that your subconsciousness controls.

  • Your body functions like breathing, blood pressure, etc.
  • Your body movement
  • making sense of the million bits of information coming at you every second through your senses – evaluating them and classifying them as dangerous or not to your well being
  • and millions more of decision to make every moment.

Boy – you would feel really stressed just after 2 seconds. And I doubt you would survive just some minutes. But your subconscious does it without strain every second of your life.

So since you now know the responsibilities and capabilities of your driver – it is essential to know, what his chief concern, his prime directive is.

What Is the Prime Directive of the Driver?

Your subconscious mind has two main directions it follows to secure your existence (its prime directive).

  1. Away from Pain: It tries to get away from anything that you associate pain with
  2. Towards Pleasure: It wants you to move toward anything that it associates pleasure with

Notice that the key here is the association of pain and pleasure – not necessarily pain itself!

What does that mean? I guess you all know people that are stuck within jobs, relationships, etc. that they describe as painful. Yet they are not able to leave. Why? Simply because they associate in their mind more pain with the act of leaving than with staying in the painful situation. Another (extreme) example is the whole subject of sadism/masochism, where you can clearly see that human minds can even link pleasure to a physical pain and so they try to get even more of it.

How Do You Get Hooked Every Time?

So now that we know that our subconscious wants to go away from pain towards pleasure we also know the hook, that any force, that want’s to manipulate you will use.

  • They will always try to make you associate massive pain with not following along with whatever they want from you.
  • At the same time they try to make you associate lots of pleasure with doing whatever they want you to do.

And very often they prefer to increase pain, since this will get you going quicker in whatever direction they want to pull you.

But don’t get it wrong – Pain is the better Short-Term Motivator, but in the long run it will nearly always fail to do the job, because ever increasing levels of pain need to be applied to continue the motivational effect.

Pleasure on the other side is something that could loose in the short run against a conflicting pain motivation, but it is needed to guarantee long term success.

Now of course this is no new knowledge – it is the old principle of the carrot and the stick, right?

And a lot of Personal Development courses are based on this.They preach that you should leverage pain and pleasure do get your butt going. And very often, they advocate the use of pain for the short term burst it can give. Associate enough pain with it – and you will change.

But there is one question you should ask yourself.

Do I Really Want to Be a Donkey?

If we follow the paradigm of the carrot and the stick, we define ourselves as nothing more than a stubborn donkey or a horse, that needs a beating to get it’s butt up and go for the pleasure of the carrot.

But do you really want to live your life like that? Do you really see yourself as stubborn and lazy that you need these motivational tools.

Sure they do work (in the short run) – but when are they needed at all? Only if the result that we are after is not coming from inside ourselves. If we think we HAVE TO DO something, that we really don’t want. Do you think the donkey wants to do the thing he gets beaten to do?

This paradigm is based on us being slaves that need to do things we really don’t want to. But let’s face it, none of us reading this blog are in the position of being a real slave. I know that there are people who are physically enslaved in the world, but I doubt that they are amongst my readers.

Now YOU (and I) aren’t slaves. And if you feel like a slave it is only because you allowed others to treat you like one.

WAIT A SECOND …. BUT …

Now you might say …. BUT …..

  • I have to go to my work (that I hate)
  • I can’t leave my husband, because of my kids
  • I can’t … because of … (my age, not enough money, I’m not smart enough, etc.)

This whole concept of “I cant … because …” is one of giving your own power to someone else (or external circumstances).

But let’s face it – you can do all the things, IF you are willing to pay the price. Because that is what is standing in your way …

YOU ARE AFRAID TO PAY THE PRICE.

Don’t get me wrong – I am guilty of that too. We all are. But that is no excuse either.

The New Paradigm – Self-Responsibility

You need to make the jump and declare yourself as being self-responsible for your life.

You have to make clear for yourself what price you are willing to pay for each decision.

If you are clear about the price (the consequences) you then are free to choose.

  • you can leave or stay in the boring job because you think that the price of risking your secure pension is too high (which today is not really that secure, isn’t it?)
  • you can leave your husband or stay because the price of separating your kids from their father seems to high for you
  • and so on

Whatever you choose is your own decision – their is no one else to say that you made a good or bad decision, if you made it for yourself and feel responsible for it, then it is ok.

Change It, Leave It or Love It

So whatever your decision is … you have basically 3 Options to deal with it.

  1. Change it: You can try to change the situation if possible.
  2. Leave it: If you cannot change it and you can’t bear the situation, you can leave it.
  3. Love it: If you cannot (or don’t want to) change the situation or leave it you should best go by loving it. You might stay in a relationship or a job – if you made the decision consciously – then why not go and love it. What would be the alternative? To hate every second of your life? To become ill yourself, frustrated and depressive? No. After you made a conscious decision to stick with a situation, you can also make the decision to drop your resistance and love what you do. This might feel strange at first, but try it and you will find, that your whole thinking towards the situation will change and what you once thought of as an unbearable burden will become much lighter and enjoyable to bear. If you can’t love it – rethink to change or leave the situation again. Don’t give yourself up and go for depression.

This is exactly what the famous quote by St. Franz of Assisi stated:

Lord grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

If you are able to say yes to your decisions, you don’t need any longer say “I Have to Do It” to anything … you can say “I Made the Decision to Do It“. That is ultimate freedom.

If you are able to say yes to every decision, the stick itself will not be needed anymore. You will see the carrot in all the things and be able to enjoy life.

For Joy Is What You Should Really Be Striving in Your Life – and Joy Only.

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8 comments… add one
  • Patrick – you have some very interesting ideas here. Definitely some stuff to conemplate. Thanks

    • Patrick

      Hello Jai, thanks. I’ve been on your site and … wow … instant subscribe 🙂

      Looks like I might contemplate over your site, while you do the same on mine.

      I might also try to go for brevity next time … on the other hand I really prefer to complete my line of thought in one post. That’s why I prefer to give a good heading structure to allow first scanning and then second pass diving into the details.

  • Interesting. I like your approach to self development and look forward to checking out your blog further.

    • Patrick

      @Bakari: Nice to hear from you. Hope to get you inspired with my other articles as well.

  • Patrick, Great discussion of taking personal responsibility and considering the options: change it, leave it, or love it. I also think the Change It and the Love It options have a lot of worthwhile sub-options which may not be so obvious at first.

    For example, choosing the Change It option could involve (1) staying at your job but using it as a base to learn about and apply for better jobs at the same company (the old camel’s-nose-in-the-tent strategy), or (2) taking classes to qualify for a different but related job–classes which may qualify for tuition reimbursement from your company.

    The concept is to take advantage of some of the real benefits of your job and use them to help you move to more satisfying, fulfulling work.

    • Patrick

      @Madeleine: Sure, changing could have many options. You could change the situation, you could exchange people (fire & hire) and much more.

      But these 3 are the core routes you could choose between. The only other alternative is to not change anything and get depressed.
      And it is a personal decision whether changing a job or changing the situation within a job is better for you.

  • Dem that a good one

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