In the first part of this article we defined motivation in it’s simplest terms. You either feel like doing something or you don’t. We also looked at why focusing on what you want, contrary to what many success principles books tell us, doesn’t work for many people.
In this, the second part of this article we will look in more detail about motivation. What are the two kinds of motivation and which one is the correct one for you right now?
The Carrot or the Stick
You might of heard of the term “carrot or stick.” It’s a term that’s used to literally ask the question, how do you get a donkey to go somewhere that it doesn’t want to go?
A) Motivate it by dangling a carrot in front of it?
B) Hit it with a stick until it does what you want it to?
Parents often motivate their children in these ways too. Either offering a reward for completing their homework or threatening to take away their iPad if they don’t do it.
Putting it another way, we could say that we are either:
- Motivated towards pleasure
- Motivated away from pain
Or more simply we can talk about towards or away from motivation. Both have their place and it’s usually the skillful combination of the two which will get you motivated to do what you need to in a variety of situations.
Towards and Away-From Motivation in Action
Imagine a very overweight person who sets a goal to lose 10 stones over the course of 2 years.
Using towards motivation they may think about themselves looking good, fitting into clothes that they like, feeling good about themselves and having more confidence in social situations. The difficulty may be that no matter how hard they try, they just can’t see themselves 10 stone lighter, they can’t imagine themselves ever looking good, and the more they think about it the worse they make themselves feel. Nothing changes.
Away from motivation may find them looking in the mirror and saying to themselves “i look awefull, i have no friends because i can’t bring myself to go out, i feel horrible and unwell most of the time and the doctor has told me that I risk serious illness if I don’t lose some weight.” That may just be the catalyst that they need to join a slimming group, begin eating healthier and taking exercise.
It’s easy to see why the towards motivation didn’t work. The goal was too big and the belief wasn’t there. Moving away from pain worked though. It was literally the kick in the pants they needed to get started.
Let’s take a look 6 months down the line what happens.
They have done incredibly well, eating healthier and going to the gym twice a week. It’s sill tough though. Physically and mentally tough to get out of bed in the morning to go to the gym.
One day they look in the mirror after having lost 5 stone. They are looking better, have started to socialise and to get their self confidence back. They don’t really feel like going to the gym this morning though, and the thought of a pizza for tea is really appealing. They go back to bed and that’s the beginning of the big slide.
How did that happen? Surely starting out was the hardest part, they have reached 50% of the goal and have changed habits. How could they let it slide at this stage?
Quite simply their motivation was pain, and they’re not in as much pain any longer therefore the motivation has become less.
This is the strategy so called yo-yo dieter:
- Motivated to move away from pain
- Lose some weigh
- Pain become less
- Motivation becomes less
- Old habits creep back in
- Weight gain
- Pain returns, motivation increases and weight loss cycle starts again etc etc
If, after having lost 5 stones, they had switched to towards-motivation it would have been much easier to imagine what they do want as a possibility and to become motivated towards their goal.
We could say that towards motivation attracts us like a magnet while the away from strategy fires us like a cannon.
So which is best?
I hope that you’ve gathered by now that the answer is neither, they both have advantages and disadvantages.
Pros and Cons
- Good for getting us unstuck
- Can literally jolt us into action
Often targets that are approached only in this way are never quite met
- Can be incredibly exhilarating
- Very good for actually finishing a long term goal or project
- Big goals can seem a to be unachievable and too far away
- In extreme cases we may find that focusing on the future can leave us less motivated than when we began. We simply can’t believe that we will ever achieve what we set out to
How to use the two kinds of motivation
You probably already understand how to use towards motivation, it’s the one that is best documented.
- Spend time thinking about yourself already having achieved the goal
- If you’re a visual person, perhaps making a vision board etc
- Focus on the feelings that you want to have as a result of reaching the goal
There is a lot less written about away from motivation though so in part 3 we will look in depth about how to really harness it’s capabilities.
In the meantime. Think about a goal that you’re working on now.
- How are you motivating yourself, or indeed de-motivating yourself?
- How might you be able to use what you’ve learned about the away from style to get yourself moving?
In the 3rd and final part of this series we will look in detail about how to use the power of away from motivation to really kick start those things that you’ve been procrastinating about.
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