Just before I stepped into ABC studios to film a segment of 20/20, I heard a voice in my head say, “Your delivery must be perfect,” followed by a wave of anxiety. Little did I realize I was doing what psychologist Albert Ellis called “musturbation”—allowing that relentless inner voice to drive my mind and career. Fortunately, I was able to draw upon my kinder, supportive voice that centered and calmed me, and the interview came off without a hitch. Under constant pressure to perform, your career can easily become the dominant force in your life. But musturbation doesn’t have to dominate in order for you to be on top of your game. In fact, the opposite is true. The key to mindful productivity and job success is to be drawn, not driven.

Driven: Working from Outside In

Sometimes your biggest obstacle lies between your own two eyes, and you don’t see the water you’re swimming in. Your musturbation voice bludgeons you with oppressive mandates such as must, need to, should, ought, and have to: “I must win that contract”; “I have to get that promotion”; “I should be a better colleague”; “People must do as I say”; “Management must see my point of view”; “I should have performed better on my team”; “Life must be easier than this.”

When you’re driven, you unwittingly relinquish your personal power and become slave to internal pressures and external demands. You grow so accustomed to being on autopilot that you’re not attuned to your surroundings or yourself. Perhaps you hit the ground hurrying and rushing from the moment you wake up, shaking your fist at the clock because there aren’t enough hours in the day. As you frantically and mindlessly toil on a project—concerned the boss won’t like the finished product or that you won’t meet the deadline—you’re out of your present mind, stuck in future worries or past regrets. These external and internal pressures backfire, undermine your ability and create unnecessary stress.

Drawn: Working from Inside Out

When you’re drawn, you are master instead of slave to your job. You work from a centered place that puts you in charge of your busy mind so you don’t succumb to external or internal pressures. You’re attuned to yourself and your surroundings in a calm, nonjudgmental way and focus on what’s happening right now. Anchored in the present moment, an inner barometer guides your work life in a peaceful observing awareness of everything you do. Regardless of the circumstances, your self-talk is compassionate, supportive and empowering.

The words you use can make you feel more in charge of your career instead of at the mercy of it—could instead of should or want to or choose to instead of must or have to: “I can do my best to win that contract” or “I’m choosing how I want to handle that challenge.” You value “great work”—not simply doing a task to complete it or to produce a product but being in the process as you go through to completion. You’re a master of self-correction and work from integrity, admitting mistakes and fixing them. You focus on the opportunity nested in a career obstacle instead of the difficulty. You toil with eight “C” words: calm, clarity, confidence, curiosity, compassion, creativity, connectedness and courage. The drawn state fosters mindful productivity in which you make conscious choices. Your ability to accept obstacles, difficulty and disappointments with calm and clarity gives you the ability to scale them.

Why It Matters

Anybody can be driven. It’s easy to work on autopilot. The difficult—and more rewarding—part is to find that place inside where you’re drawn. Cultivating mindful productivity–instead of placing an intense focus on the completion of the task–enriches your work life. Every time you feel driven by your musturbation voice or the circumstances, choose more supportive, comforting words such as “I can,” “I want to,” or “I choose to.” Once you realize the voice isn’t you and that you don’t have to live up to its demands, you can take a breath, step back, and chill. And you become stronger, calmer, and more self-assured. Five minutes a day in which you still your busy mind and center on the quiet places inside sets the compass of your heart so you can be more drawn, even in times of upheaval. And science shows it’s worth it. When you’re drawn, your heart and respiratory rates slow down. Muscles loosen. Your mind is calm, open, and clear. Decisions and actions are reflective, even, and balanced. You have better sleep, increased immunity, lower blood pressure, improved digestion, and a sense of well-being. Studies also show that a slower and calmer approach to job tasks results in more productivity, a higher quality product, and greater success in the long run.

Contemplate how much of your career is driven versus drawn. Then ask what actions you can take so you’re drawn from a deeper, personal calling instead of outside pressures. May you find that place within yourself where job productivity and peace of mind coexist—where you have more idle moments to chill without imperatives, nothing to rush to, fix or accomplish. And you’re able to relax into that sweet spot where you’re mindfully productive in each moment.


  • Bryan Robinson, Ph.D.

    Founder and CAO of ComfortZones Digital and Author of 40 books.

    ComfortZones Digital

    Bryan Robinson, Ph.D. is Founder and Chief Architect Officer (CAO) of ComfortZones Digital--the digital companion to mitigate workplace stress. He is a professor emeritus at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, psychotherapist in private practice, and award-winning author of two novels and 40 nonfiction books that have been translated into 15 languages. His latest books are CHAINED TO THE DESK IN A HYBRID WORLD: A GUIDE TO WORK-LIFE BALANCE (New York University Press, 2023)#CHILL: TURN OFF YOUR JOB AND TURN ON YOUR LIFE (William Morrow, 2019), DAILY WRITING RESILIENCE: 365 MEDITATIONS & INSPIRATIONS FOR WRITERS (Llewellyn Worldwide, 2018). He is a regular contributor to Forbes.com, Psychology Today, and Thrive Global. He has appeared on 20/20, Good Morning America, The CBS Early Show, ABC's World News Tonight, NPR’s Marketplace, NBC Nightly News and he hosted the PBS documentary "Overdoing It: How To Slow Down And Take Care Of Yourself." www.bryanrobinsonbooks.com.