Have you been should-ing on yourself? Do you often feel weighed down by obligation? Do you use "negative motivation" to spur you into action?
I was working with one of my wonderful coaching clients the other day and Brad* was telling me how he had spent the day talking himself out of attending a networking function that evening. His inner "chat" tried to convince him that the attendees were more experienced and knowledgeable in his new line of work than he was and that he wouldn't have anything worthwhile to contribute to the conversations so it would be socially uncomfortable and awkward. Finally, he decided to attend the function because if, as the new kid on the block, he didn't show up, his absence would be noticed and people would think he wasn't friendly, or that he was a snob. When I talked to him, he was dreading going to the event, but had resigned himself to show up in order to avoid further potential social repercussions.
I asked Brad to consider a new mindset and asked him what the possible opportunities were for him if he went to this party? He instantly came up with several: "I might meet someone I can collaborate with", "I might meet someone who can help/support me", I might meet a like-minded individual to mastermind with", and "I might meet someone who can teach me something."
"How did that feel?" I asked him? He replied, "Liberating, freeing, optimistic, like a burden had left my shoulders". POSITIVE INNER MOTIVATION - considering the opportunities in doing the action.
Brad had a real AHA! moment when he realized that he had usually approached tasks from the "what is the cost if I don't do this" frame of mind. He had been motivating himself regularly from a negative perspective. Brad was good at internally punishing himself with negative and damaging self-talk as his primary motivational technique. NEGATIVE INNER MOTIVATION - focusing on the costs in not doing the action
"Carrots and Sticks are so last century", says Daniel H. Pink, in his brilliant new book, DRIVE - The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us.
Pink was referring to the common "Carrot and Stick" reward and punishment motivational technique that most of us grew up with wherein good behavior is rewarded, and poor behavior is punished. Pink refers instead to 3 essential elements of true motivation (autonomy, mastery and purpose) that connect to create the most powerful form of motivation of all - intrinsic motivation - that which comes from within.
When Brad realized that the opportunities in attending the function could connect intrinsically with his mastery and purpose, the function became a lot more attractive, and the decision to attend then became a no-brainer!
Are you negatively motivated? Do you usually think of the downside or the cost of not doing something as a way to push you into action? You might ask "Who cares? If the motivation (negative or otherwise) prompts me into action, doesn't that serve the same purpose and won't that have the same result?"
Well, yes, you may be prompted into action, but you would be acting from a place of scarcity, with a limiting attitude and energy. Your results and your joy factor could be much more positive if you flipped into an opportunity mindset, one of abundance and possibility.
Around this holiday season we have a number of situations where we may be motivated to do something because we feel we "have to" because the "cost" of not doing them is too great. The weight of obligation is heavy. What might happen if you approached each of your 'obligatory' Christmas tasks and gatherings with one simple question:
"What is the opportunity here?"
Perhaps that holiday family reunion might offer an opportunity to get closer to your grandkids. Perhaps you might be able to mend a few fences with your recalcitrant brother-in-law. Maybe you would learn a new recipe or perhaps the long drive to your family gathering would simply give you much needed time to chill out , relax and listen to some music on your car stereo.
In a nutshell:
- Approach your activities with the "what is the opportunity here" mindset rather than the "what is the cost if I don't do this" mindset.
- Feel the lightening of your shoulders as you step into a situation from a place of curiosity and possibility instead of one of obligation.
- Notice how showing up differently affects your energy, and others around you.
Resources: Daniel H. Pink, DRIVE - The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us
*client name changed to preserve confidentiality