Drive versus Desire

Desire: To wish or long for; want.

There are many, many people out there with desires and dreams. In fact, I think you’ll be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t have a dream of some kind or another. Some people share their dreams with others openly, as stories by the fireplace or on long runs in the woods, while others hold their dreams tightly to their chest, not saying a peep and just carrying on in their everyday lives. Some people give up everything they know to make their dreams come true, and others just plug along, their dreams up high, working slowly day by day to get a little bit closer to realization. Some are superstitious, thinking that if they share their dreams then they won’t come true, and also so that- if they fail -they won’t be ridiculed. Others think there is some communal support in sharing one’s dreams; by putting it out there, it’s a sign of commitment. Some dreams are big, while others are just within reach. We can be close to seeing our dreams becoming reality, or we could have a long way to go.

I wouldn’t go so far to say that everyone with a dream is capable of doing what they are setting out to. No, then the idea of the dream would be – well…- reality. Some don’t even set out to tackle their dream, they just continue to dream- maybe as an escape or something to distract them from their mundane lives. Or they think: “Hey, I really want to do this” without making attempts to move that dream within reach. There’s absolutely, positively, nothing wrong with dreaming itself, whether actualized or otherwise. Dreaming can get us through a lot of really tough stuff. I dream about a lot of things that I won’t ever have my hands on, like ending world hunger and having a million dollars to give to my favorite charity (and, of course, running for Miss America). But just dreaming isn’t going to make things happen. Just having the desire for something isn’t going to make it real. Things will sometimes fall into our laps and we can be grateful and make use of those wonderful gifts, but that’s just dumb luck (hey, I’m just being honest).

No, if we really want something, if we really want to see our dreams become reality, we need something a little more. We need determination. We need drive.

Drive: To push, propel, or press onward forcibly; urge forward.

A lot of people can say that they want to do things. A lot of people can do a lot of talking. I try to not be one of those people. Granted, I don’t usually say anything aloud that I don’t strongly feel I can accomplish. And there’s a fine line between knowing what you can do and just hoping, of course. (Yet, if we only ever did what we are capable of doing at that time, then what is the point of doing anything at all?) There’s a lot of merit in hope. Hope is what drives people to see a change, to base their dreams upon. Hope is a non-tangible necessity for anyone who wants to see a change occur. But just like desire, hope itself is useless.

It’s the drive that gets your places. Just like in a car, or on the bus. It’s simple physics, really, Newton’s First Law of Motion: in order for an object to change directions- to move – a force must act upon it. Drive is that force, it’s taking that step forward, toward our goals, to see them to fruition; or to at least the attempt. The attempt itself is worth more than a million dollars for some. And there’s a difference between dreaming and driving. Dreaming is stagnant, driving is moving. And sometimes, driving takes us to places we may never have even dreamt we’d go.

When I was an undergrad, I decided to go to grad school not because I thought I wanted to be an academic or some hot-shot medical consultant. Nah, I wanted to design shoes. I thought that by going to grad school in biomechanics, I’d be in a great position to apply for a running shoe company and design the next generation of shoes. But during my first year of graduate school, something changed. I wanted to do more. Don’t get me wrong, good running shoes are an incredibly important part of my life and I am incredibly meticulous about finding the right pair. But it wasn’t enough for me. To be honest, I felt like stopping where I was at, getting a desk job somewhere (to be a CAD monkey for a running shoe company); well, I felt like that would be settling. I had more work to do.

“What kind of work?,” you ask. While I didn’t think that I could find a cure cancer nor did I think I’d invent a special pill that would end world hunger (and mind you, I still don’t), I had other types of questions more pertinent to my field of study. And I had time. I was 23, and I was curious.

Luckily for me, I applied to grad school and was offered an opportunity to do what I wanted to do: ask more questions. Granted, I had a sub-par undergrad GPA, and I had big shoes to fill. Whose shoes? I had no idea. Someone else’s, that should be there filling them- but, instead, I was. I didn’t feel like I was the type of person who should be getting their PhD. I mean, really? Me? The thought of someday, someone calling me “Doctor”- it didn’t really make sense. But I went with it. And I had the drive to succeed. I had to prove that I was worthy, right? Someone else had believed in me, that’s why they offered me the job. Now I had to step up to the plate. I’m doing the same thing now with my post-doc. I’m intimidated… definitely intimidated. There are so many smart people with so many incredible ideas and questions. So much wealth of knowledge and resources. But I am here. Somehow, they either overlooked my CV and are kicking themselves for their decision, or they believe that I, too, am capable of doing great work alongside them. I’m no longer sitting on the bench (and I’m not sure if I ever really was, especially not the lab bench- that’s a big no-no); and it’s time once again. Batter up.

I approach triathlon, and running for that matter, with the same mentality. I don’t think I ever dreamed, as a kid, of doing triathlon. And, I am not some genetically-gifted girl with a phenomenally high VO2max and loads of fast twitch muscles that can swim-bike-run her way to a podium spot at every race. But I can train hard, I can recover smart, and I can roll with the punches. I can learn a lot about my body, my physiology. I know what to eat, when to sleep, when to rest. I not only have the drive to succeed, but more strongly, I have the drive to do what I am capable of doing as best I can. And I also have the passion to see what exactly I am capable of. Sounds tricky, but it makes sense to me. I have this weird, quirky tendency to take something, like triathlon, and play with it like Play Doh. I can change it from being “just a sport”, like how many normal people see it, to being something more. It turns into a test, a challenge. To me, it’s a treasure-trove, full of dreams ripe for picking. What am I capable of today? I often ask myself. And I have no doubts, of course, that I can strike out. I can miss out big and fall flat on my face, I’ve done it before (literally). But sometimes, I can hit a home run.

Our drive is what gets us there. Where is there? I’m sure my colleague, Dr Seuss, has a book about it. It’s different for everyone. Ultimately, it’s to our goals (or closer to them anyway). It’s getting us to our potential. Our true potential, not just the potential that someone else may have outlined for us.   Drive is what we do to demonstrate we are capable, and we are passionate. Our drive is our best tool to succeed.

Speaking of drive and determination, my friend Sam has started his own initiative: To hike all four major through-hikes in the US consecutively. And right about now, he’s trucking along the North Country Trail in New York, pursuing his dreams by putting one step in front of the other. Good luck, Sam!

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23 thoughts on “Drive versus Desire

  1. I really enjoyed reading this. I really liked the portion on drive – everyone has dreams, but the difference between dreamers and achievers is drive and this post really put that in my head. Thanks!

  2. You hit it on the nail! The people in this world who have accomplished great things…started with a dream…but made that dream into reality with their drive…

    Their drive, i.e. hard work, dedication, and more is what propelled them from a state of stagnancy to achieving amazing things in this world. One of the defining qualities in each of us Team Trakkers teammates, other than our shared admiration for the sport of triathlon, is our drive and tenacious nature.

  3. I loved this. I know so many people with big dreams and no drive.

    I have a hard time sometimes because I think there are a lot of dreamers out there who do not have the drive. And, well, I think I have some drive. So when people talk about things they dream about doing – my response is always COOL, so when are you going to get started? And then they get all freaked out and mumble about how they can’t do it or it will never happen because they have to (fill in the blank)….so it is really just a dream. Which is fine if they are happy with that I guess.

    Anyway, great post, I really enjoyed it. AND thanks for the thought on the ill fitting suit, I have been wondering what to do with it. Good advice!

  4. I think this is a very timely post given that many people spend this part of the year resolving to change their lives. They (I) have dreams but the proof of the pudding, as it were, is how are we going to make it happen. Whatever the motivation, are we taking the steps to see our dreams a reality?

    Great post!

  5. I think the only way to really find out how something works for each person, because everyone is so incredibly different, is the Play-doh approach. Even the best laid plans should be trumped when our body is yelling for rest or to push harder. I think endurance sports teach that; the ability to really connect ourselves and listen to ourselves mentally, physically, and emotionally

  6. I have been thinking about this a lot lately pertaining to the year to come. I have the dream… do I have the drive? Or rather I’ve been looking for my WHY! So that I can fuel the drive when it might be a bit lacking!

  7. I absolutely loved this post. I know so many people who have dreams, but do absolutely NOTHING to achieve them. It is really frustrating for me b/c if I want something really badly, I go for it. That applies to getting my masters, becoming a better triathlete (I have my lazy days for sure, but I work hard for the most part), and other things in my life.

  8. Pingback: Goals, Part 3 – Core Values and The Hedgehog « The Iron Bar

  9. Megan – chiming in with the others to say “great post”!

    I know I have benefited from friendship with others with immense drive – rubs off – and helps me to move some of my dreams closer to reality (and expand what I think is possible for myself).

  10. Pingback: Ice, Ice Baby

  11. This makes me think of a Patton Oswalt skit in which he talks about how he’s been trying to lose weight, then corrects himself and says: “Actually, it’s more that I’ve been WANTING to lose weight.” Keep driving toward your dreams, girl!

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