The recent visit to Australia by the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall, has seen crowds of people show up to wave flags and struggle for a front of line position to extend their hands out in the hope of a reciprocal handshake from one of the royal couple.
What is it about royalty or celebrity that can turn fairly average Australian’s into blubbering ‘fans’ who promise on camera that they’ll never wash their hand again after having it ever so softly gripped by whoever it is they’ve been stalking.
Of course there are those who show up simply as a sign of respect and admiration, and take it all in their stride rather than whipping themselves up into a frenzy of hyper-ventilation, tears and even the odd (very odd if you ask me) uncharacteristic screaming.
Is it that our perceptions of the lifestyle of royalty and celebrity hold something we all secretly admire and even desire?
Researchers Paul R. Lawrence and Nitin Nohria completed a meta-study on what drives us as human beings and their conclusion is genetically we all share four distinct drives that can explain our actions. These are the drive to acquire, belong, learn and defend. What’s interesting about their research, as they explain in their book Driven – how human nature shapes our choices, there is a ‘dark’ side to each of these drives.
To help us explore what’s going on here, let’s consider just two of the four innate drives of all humans.
It’s only human to be driven to acquire. We are aspirational goal seeking beings. We assess our lives and are constantly driven to lesser or greater levels of intensity to acquire things that money can and can’t buy. And that’s positive when we keep a balance on our gratitude for what we have and understand our intentions for wanting to acquire whatever it is we want to acquire, and how that will realistically impact on our overall sense of well-being and help us to live a more happy, flourishing and prosperous life.
The dark side of the drive to acquire is when we get sucked into the zero sum game of keeping up with the Joneses, or the royals or the celebrities. We want what they’ve got, and if we pursue that and maybe even get it, the Joneses, royals and celebrities have upped the game, and have something else, and off we go again, being driven to acquire that as well… it’s a zero sum game that won’t increase your well-being.
Perhaps it’s the drive to belong that causes this fascination with royalty and celebrity. Being a part of like-minded people all gathering to pay homage to whoever it is that we’re fixated on at the time. And again that’s positive. We become part of a community and this can foster a sense of well-being.
The dark side of the drive to belong is when you move from being a fan to a fanatic where your judgement of just how much you ‘belong’ becomes blurred, and on balance your decisions not only affect your own sense of well-being, but also have negative impact on those around you and potentially even the royalty or celebrity you become fixated with.
Taking this beyond the discussion of the fascination with royalty and celebrity, and focusing back on all four innate drives of humans, there are some questions that are being raised here that can help us all ensure we are living an intentional life that promotes our well-being and our opportunities to live more happy, flourishing and prosperous lives.
What is it that you want to acquire in your life that you don’t currently have? Why do you want to acquire it? How confident are you that when you acquire what you desire, it will help promote your sense of well-being and opportunity to live a more happy, flourishing and prosperous life? To what extent are you grateful for all you have already acquired? Remember, we’re not just talking about possessions, we’re referring to the things money can and can’t buy.
In what ways are you being driven at the moment to belong? What communities and relationships are you currently part of and how well are you intentionally contributing? Where would you like to belong and become a part of that will help you to live a more happy, flourishing and prosperous life?
What are you currently being driven to learn? Are you an intentional proactive life-long learner or have you become a passive learner, waiting only for whatever your employer tells you that you need to learn as part of your work role? What are you or could you be learning that feeds your spirit, your soul, your creativity? If you’re not learning, you’re more than likely stagnating – regardless of your age.
And finally, what are you currently being driven to defend? What intentional actions do you practice to ensure you maintain and protect your sense of well-being and your opportunities to live a more happy, flourishing and prosperous life? You might also need to consider what are you defending about your current lifestyle and choices that could be preventing you from increasing your sense of well-being and your opportunities to live a more happy, flourishing and prosperous life.
While comparing ourselves to others may be a fairly natural thing to do, the more you start to analyse the pitfalls in doing so, the more in control you will be to ensure that whatever is driving you, is driving you positively toward increasing your sense of well-being and not further away from it.