Driving the Drift

Josh B. wrote a wonderfully insightful comment in response to my Drifting post a couple weeks ago. Here's what he wrote:

"I find it curious that the noun "drift" and the verb "drive" share the same etymological origin. we typically think of drift as apathetic, without purpose or intent, disconnected…the opposite of “drive.” but historically, the "drift" was the result of the "drive." The relationship between the ideas was direct and strong. we see that traditional relationship when we look at the leg sweep. the attacker drives, the defender drifts. There is a parallel in our relationships. A friend chooses, a partner withdraws. Did we drift from who we were, or did we drive to who we are? When we notice that we’re not as close as we used to be, is that because it just happened, or is it because we made choices, and our choices made the space? If we made choices, even choices of omission, do we have something to take responsibility for?"

I agree with Josh's comment regarding drive. The drift and the drive are related. It is usually easier to see direct relationships of drive and drift when they are isolated (i.e. concerning two things as they specifically relate and react to one another), however life tends to be more dynamic, encompassing numerous converging and diverging forces, objects and influences. Some of those elements an individual has direct control over, other things they do not. The more factors involved; the more driving and drifting happens to muddy the waters.

Life is interrelated, so when one element changes, it effects (or is it affects, I always get them confused) all of the others in some way (the butterfly effect). Being that there are numerous known and unknown factors, sometimes it can be difficult to determine where the drive or drift originates from or is affected by, even when it comes from within ourselves.

Where drive tends to be more direct, deliberate, drift is typically more subtle, many times even unconscious. Drift can be enhanced by a number of small decisions or non-decisions. Sometimes drift is caused or contributed to by another drift. Sometimes as you are focusing on driving toward or away from one thing you drift from something else. Other times you may not realize that your drifting is caused by some other drive. Sometimes we make one small, seemingly tiny decision that sets in motion a chain of events that we didn't anticipate. Factors that we may not even know about can come into play. Things that are not obviously related, but have some influence on us are not always seen clearly close up. Basically, what I'm saying is that sometimes we are in the drivers seat, other times not so much. We can't control all of the factors seen and unseen, however as Viktor Frankl once said, we do have control over one thing...

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” 

~Viktor Frankl

Larger currents and trends can drive drift as well. Like Viktor's quote regarding one's ability to choose their attitude: Although he was caught up in WWII, the Nazis and the Holocaust, all things he wasn't able to control, he was still able to choose his own attitude. 

This is not to say that I believe we are typically victims of fate and have no choice over our lives. On the contrary, I believe that we Set the Pace. And as Josh suggests in his question, "Did we drift from who we were, or did we drive to who we are?"  I think it's something in the middle, the environment we are in has influence over us as do each event that happens to us, however like Viktor suggests we have the ability to choose, we have freewill. So, I do lean toward our ability to drive toward who we are or at least who we are choosing to be. We make decisions every day, every moment to choose much of our circumstance. Over time not over night we can determine much of our lives and ourselves. Sometimes the decisions we make are done directly, consciously, other times they are done indirectly, subconsciously or as Josh says in his comment, through omission. However, whether passive or assertive, internal or external, sometimes we can see what drives the drift, other times the dust needs to settle a bit in order to see things from a clearer perspective. Yes, I believe its true that we often drive our own drift, but life is a dynamic environment, there are a lot of factors and influences driving drifts of their own, so in the words of Reinhold Niebuh:
"God, grant me the serenity to accept the things 
I cannot change, 
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference."

I try to keep in mind that we are the common denominator in our own lives, both the drifting and driving has led us to exactly where and who we are in this moment.

"[W]hen you go through life … it all seems accidental at the time it is happening. Then when you get on in your 60s or 70s and look back, your life looks like a well-planned novel with a coherent theme … Incidents that seemed accidental, pure chance, turn out to be major elements in the structuring of this novel. Schopenhauer says, ‘Who wrote this novel? You did."

~Joseph Campbell from his book, Mythic worlds, modern words.

Here's one of my favorite poems about drifting and driving:

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

~Robert Frost

As for me, I try to remind myself that the surfer can control his own board, but not the ocean.

Ok, philosophical soapbox session officially done! =)

Thanks again Josh for your comment that took me on my little fortune cookie journey.  

Keep Going!

All the best,


  1. Absolutely, Craig. Thank you for having the dialogue with me. I've liked sharing these ideas because they have clear application for how we think about controlling our social and emotional "tactical space".


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