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Driven by Being Liked


Throughout my childhood and adult years (until my early 40s), I was driven mostly by one thing:  being liked.  I noticed that I would always pick a person or three, and their opinion of me, of what I thought and did, dictated what I thought about and what I did.  In that way, my guidance and sense of self-esteem was outside myself.  I’d deposited that with some people.

In my early 40s, I had a transformative event on the beach that changed everything.  My entire guidance system was replaced by something that felt both external and also deeply internal.  I no longer sought affirmation or approval from anyone.  Instead, this identity that revealed itself to me (God, Life, Spirit, my true self, whatever word you like) became the sole and exclusive guidance and check point for my life— in a single moment!

I was talking with a close friend the other day about this.  He asked me, “How important is it to you to be liked?”  I quickly said, “not very important, though it was for many years.”   He helps business people, CEOs and such (including me).  He said, “You know how many of my clients are driven by the need to be liked?”  I had no idea.  “90 percent.”

I was baffled because it doesn’t seem possible to own a business, to lead a team and be driven by what they think of me or whether they like me.  Instead, I know my mission and my job.  That’s to always do what I think is right.   This is why it’s very easy for me to communicate with the people on my team and help align, orient, and inspire them.  I don’t see how it would be possible if my guidance system was a group of human beings (with their own limitations, inspirations, needs, agendas and such).  Impossible!

In speaking with my wife this morning about all this, I realized that I’ve seen this trajectory (from needing to be liked by others to having a larger and rock-solid beacon) in many men I’ve been close with.  We all seem to go through this developmental arc.  If I’m correct about that, then this is just human nature.  It doesn’t make any of us wrong, less than, defective, or anything like that.  It’s just part of our life cycle.  I love things like this that normalize the human experience, not only for me, but for all of us!

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