When I think about people’s desire to feel powerful, I usually think about people being driven to achieve. But a recent conversation made me realize that power can actually drive people the opposite way.
This woman definitely has a strong need for power. She is well-educated, and has taken every opportunity to get a wealth of experience. She’s one of those people who does professional reading for fun. She’s a hard-worker, and is respected in her workplace. She wants to be the best that she can be.
Her problem? Her dream job had come open. What? How could this possibly be a problem?
She explained that she really loved her current job, and felt she was doing important work. What if she left that position, only to find that her dream job wasn’t such a dream? The new job would most certainly be a challenge – what if she got in over her head?
As we talked, I realized that her need for power might actually be leading her to underachieve. She felt competent in her current position, but the fear that she would lose that feeling in a new position was paralyzing her.
It made me think about some of my students that I have seen as unmotivated and not caring about school. Is it possible that I’ve got it completely wrong? Perhaps for some of these kids, it’s not that they don’t care about achieving, but, in fact, that they care so much that they are afraid to try and fail? Does their desire to feel powerful actually keep them from taking chances?
Behaviour can truly be deceiving. We can never really know what is going on inside of a person that is driving their decisions – until we ask and listen.
And then, we may have the opportunity to help someone with what they are truly struggling with.