Figure Out What's Next

#16: Why You Damage Your Success and What You Can Do About it

with Nicola Vetter & Peter Axtell
March 7, 2023 | 18 Minutes



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On "Inside-Out Career Design" this week, hosts Nicola Vetter & Peter Axtell speak about

...why you damage your success and what you can do about it. Hidden patterns of behavior learned in childhood are likely operating today. Unconsciously, of course. Your mind is like a tape recorder, recording every thought, feeling, and message from your caregivers when you were young. We're not judging here. Your caregivers (in most cases) were doing their best given the messages put in their heads by their caregivers. It's a chain. The psychologist Tabi Kahler discovered five patterns of behavior that people repeat when stressed. He coined the phrase, Drivers. The point is that when you get stressed, you can slip into solving problems the way you did when you were a child. Now you're an adult, those strategies no longer apply. It’s time to learn some new strategies.

Some questions we discuss for you to reflect on

  • What do you think your primary Driver is?
  • Do you have a Hurry Up Driver and if so, what other Driver is it connected to?
  • Can you guess what primary Driver your spouse or a friend has?
  • What primary Driver might your parents have?
  • What primary Driver might your boss have?
  • And if you want to take the guesswork out of the equation, and you want to know what your Drivers are and how to apply some new strategies to your life, we offer an assessment and teach a whole section about Drivers in our Figure Out What’s Next Program.

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About the Inside-Out Career Design Podcast

This podcast is obsessed with answering a single question: Is it possible to create an authentic, meaningful, and fulfilling life you love while building a successful and rewarding career?

Join Nicola Vetter and Peter Axtell, co-founders of the Career Insights platform and creators of the groundbreaking MotivationFinder assessment, as they follow their obsession with answering this question by sharing their insights, discoveries, and life lessons and talking with career experts, leaders, spiritual guides, psychologists, data scientists, coaches -- anyone and everyone who might hold a strategy or answer to the age-old questions of “what’s next for me?” and “what should I do with my life?”

They seek to transform suffering into joy for millions of people stuck and confused in their lives and careers.

Get ready to be inspired, motivated, and above all, to connect deeply with who you are and what you are meant to do with the time you’ve been given.


Nicola Vetter  00:00

Drivers are called Drivers because they are driving your behavior. Whether you're conscious of it or not. As an adult, you want to be driving the bus, not your inner child. That's the point of all this.


Peter Axtell  00:18

Welcome to Inside-Out Career Design. In this show, we're obsessed with answering a single question. Is it possible to create an authentic, meaningful, and fulfilling life you love while building a successful and rewarding career? My name is Peter Axtell, and I'm here with Nicola Vetter. We're co-founders of the CareerInsights platform, and creators of the groundbreaking MotivationFinder assessment. Join us as we seek to transform suffering into joy for millions of people stuck and confused in their lives and careers. We'll share our insights, discoveries, and life lessons and talk with career experts, leaders, spiritual guides, psychologists, data scientists, coaches, anyone who might hold a strategy or answer to the age-old questions of: "What's next for me?" and "What should I do with my life?" Get ready to be inspired, motivated, and above all, to connect deeply with who you are, and what you're meant to do with the time you've been given. 


Peter Axtell  01:21

Are you trying to figure out what to do with your life, to figure out what to do with the precious time you've been given on this earth? Or to figure out what only you as a remarkable and unique individual can bring into this world? If you are, please join us for one of our live and completely free online workshops, where we cover different topics to help you figure out what to do with your life and career without wasting precious time, taking wild guesses, or risking it all. To save your spot in our next live and free workshop go to We can't wait to see you there. Again, that's


Nicola Vetter  02:15

Hello, and welcome to another episode of the Inside-Out Career Design Podcast. I'm Nicola, and I'm here with Peter. And today, we'll talk about something you've likely never thought about...unconscious messages that often drive your behavior when you're distressed. The result of these messages is called Drivers because they drive us to behave in a certain way. It's a little bit like computer code, which produces a specific result. For most of us, Drivers have been a contributing factor to how we act our whole lives. They are a hidden force inside you that you are likely not aware of. So, let's unpack the mystery of Drivers.


Peter Axtell  03:15

From the moment you were born, your mental tape recorder started recording everything you felt, saw, heard, and reacted to, all subconsciously of course, since you couldn't speak. So, you popped into a scary New World. And you had to figure out quickly how to survive. So, when you were hungry, you cried. When you felt safe, you cooed. When you felt discomfort, you wailed in anger. All totally normal stuff. Imagine this scene, you're a baby or a toddler, in a room with your mom or dad or someone who was a caregiver. You're looking out at them and they're looking at you. You start to fidget, or cry, or sometimes throw a tantrum. Your parents or caregivers try to figure out how to calm you down or behave differently. But when their attempt to calm you down fails, they become stressed. The situation escalates. Then their own internal messages that they received in their childhood kick in telling them how to handle you.


Nicola Vetter  04:33

At some point, you get the message unconsciously early on, of course, that in order to feel safe, and loved, and accepted, you need to act in a certain way, non-verbally at first. So, this message gets recorded on your internal hard drive that records 24/7. That's how those messages get passed on to you. And those are the so-called Drivers. You realize you're only okay, if you act according to your Driver. What that means is that in order to feel safe, you need to obey the Driver or Drivers, your caregivers passed on to you. To be clear, there is no judgement here, your caregivers, in most cases, were doing the best they could, given their own histories.


Peter Axtell  05:38

But what are the implications of this? And why would you care? In your being, you have what's called your free child and your adapted child. You started out as a free child, and then had to adapt to those Driver messages in order to survive. Totally understandable, then. But it's a problem today. You're no longer a child. You're an adult now. So why would you care about this?


Nicola Vetter  06:12

When you get stressed with a problem, and that stress escalates, it will trigger your primary Driver, one out of five. And we'll get to those five Drivers in a moment. What this means is that you will find yourself trying to solve adult problems in the same way you did when you were a child. As an adult, would you go to a child and say, hey, Sally, what's your advice on how to solve my problem? You see what I mean. Drivers are called Drivers, because they are driving your behavior, whether you're conscious of it or not. As an adult, you want to be driving the bus, not your inner child. That's the point of all this. And to be clear, it's probably not realistic to ever be completely Driver-free. But we could go a long way to becoming an autonomous adult, as much as possible and without playing games.


Peter Axtell  07:28

A quick comment on where this whole concept of Drivers comes from. There's a psychologist named Tabi Kahler, who was doing research on human behavior in group therapy. He watched hours and hours of videotape and noticed that when someone got distressed, they acted in particular ways that kept repeating. And then he discovered that there are five patterns that kept repeating. And so, he coined the phrase, Drivers. The five Drivers are, BE PERFECT, PLEASE OTHERS, BE STRONG, TRY HARD and HURRY UP. There's nothing wrong or bad about a specific Driver. In fact, they probably brought you some success as they do have some benefits. But there's also a dark side to them. That's why it's so important to learn about them and be aware of when they drive you. So, let's briefly talk about each Driver and some of their qualities. As we do this, see if you can identify which Driver might be your primary one or two. You likely have a bit at every Driver, but one or two are dominant.


Nicola Vetter  08:50

So let's start with BE PERFECT. My primary Driver. I've learned it way back in my childhood days when I was compared to others. My cousin Andrea, who always brought straight A's back home, or my best friend Jule, who was so thin, my mom could get both her hands around her waist. It feels like you must be flawless and succeed at everything you try. My mom always said, "I want you to be successful." It can feel like your life and work is impossible without perfection. You may also expect perfect standards, not only from yourself, but also from others. And that can cause them to feel being judged. Now perfectionism among millennials has significantly increased especially among the gifted population. It's close to 80 percent according to studies, but in the end, it's a losing proposition, because you can never truly reach perfectionism.


Peter Axtell  10:14

Another very common one, that's also my primary Driver is PLEASE OTHERS. About half the population self identifies as PLEASE OTHERS. And even more so among women. It turns out that people pleasing is an instinct, common to all human beings. Some just lean into it more than others. Our need to please is actually more of a need to belong and is very much formed by cultural expectations. Accommodate, be kind, helpful, caring, no matter the situation, put your own needs on hold. My mom always used to say, "if you can say something nice, then don't say anything at all." People pleaser is actually a blessing and a curse. A prominent example of someone with a distinct PLEASE OTHERS Driver was Lady Di, Princess of Wales.


Nicola Vetter  11:14

Absolutely, sad story. Now the third one is BE STRONG. To stay with the Royals, The Queen in the Netflix series, The Crown is an example. Never show weakness or emotions. But bottled-up emotions might one day explode in rage or aggression towards colleagues, or even towards the people you love most. Or you might find yourself getting into unnecessary and exhausting competitions with others, just to prove who's the strongest, who can work the hardest or the longest. You feel like all is up to you, all the burden is on you. And you must take care of everyone else, except yourself. You might expect others to BE STRONG too and look down on them as weak when they ask for help or show too much emotion. But what you really need to be aware of is that your BE STRONG Driver might compel you to stay too long, in a bad situation, years, possibly even decades too long. It appears to me that the Queen was seldom truly happy.


Peter Axtell  12:50

Next is TRY HARD. You must always give your absolute best and never give up. You must always improve and be better than you are now. You must never be satisfied with where you are. You must always say YES to every request and at least try not from a point of view of pleasing someone but because there's another challenge to conquer. Wow. It's an exhausting life. Have you seen the movie Fauda? I can highly recommend it. Doran, the main character, he plows ahead, kind of like he's got blinders on. He's totally stressed. And he's completely unaware of the dangers to himself and his team and so he takes all these unnecessary risks. Perfect example.


Nicola Vetter  13:40

Yeah. And finally, the fifth Driver, HURRY UP. It's a bonus Driver because it can't stand alone. So, it's always in combination with another of the four Drivers. I'm blessed with HURRY UP plus BE PERFECT, which is the perfect combination for a disaster waiting to happen. It feels like I have two tyrants in my head. One says, "do perfect work." And the other says, "hurry up, there's no time, work faster." So, it's one foot on the brake and one foot on the gas. And so, I fluctuate back and forth between the two. Which master should I obey? With this Driver, you must hurry up and not waste any time, whatever you're doing, it's not fast enough. You must race against the clock and put another 10 items onto your to-do list. You just have to get stuff done and out of the way, fast. You must be efficient in your work. You might get impatient with others and then harass them so that they hurry up. When left unleashed, this Driver is also destroying any chance of focused attention and flow. A great example is the scene in the movie Modern Times where Charlie Chaplin is trying to outrun the conveyor belt.


Peter Axtell  15:22

And that's why you can damage your success because your Driver is driving the bus, not you. When you want to navigate your life and career from the inside out. It requires that you make decisions and act according to who you truly are and not just from what you were told to be, or how to behave. With everything we teach it's our goal to put you in a position where you have choice, where you can consciously choose your actions and decisions. Awareness is the starting point.


Nicola Vetter  16:02

Here's a fun exercise. When you watch movies, see if you can identify what the main characters Drivers are. If you look at all those heroes getting shot at, bombed, stabbed, beaten up, and then when people ask, "how are you doing?" the answer is always "fine." Typical BE STRONG, often in combination with TRY HARD. But there's a distinction. Now that you gained some awareness, it's also fun to catch yourself. And if you want to dive deeper into this, we have an online Driver's assessment that's part of our Figure Out What's Next program. We teach a whole lot more about it, and how to deal with each Driver. Your Drivers might be the reason you're feeling stuck or unhappy in your life or career, so I urge you to get in the driver's seat yourself.


Peter Axtell  17:09

And we can teach you how. Thanks so much for joining us here today. For show notes go to, where we share links and other relevant information. And leave us a comment, a question, or a topic that you'd like us to explore in a future episode. We'd love to hear from you.


Nicola Vetter  17:38

And if you like what you've heard, share it with someone you care about. And subscribe, rate, and review our Inside-Out Career Design podcast on Apple podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts, so you'll never miss an episode. Thanks so much for joining us here today. We'll see you next week for another episode. Same time, same place.