Two Types of Motivation

Xperience Growthblogposts

I’ve made 2 major career shifts over the course of my professional life.

The first was moving from corporate marketing & advertising to being an independent contractor in real estate. I made that transition, which was a pretty major shift, because of what I didn’t THINK I liked about corporate environments. I felt like I had no control over my fate; yet in hindsight now realize that I had quite a lot of control.

I ran away from that environment into the make-or-break world of real estate.

Years later, I made the switch into coaching, training and development. This time, the move was different. I was moving towards something that I wanted, as opposed to away from what I didn’t want.

There are two main types of motivation: running towards something you want and running away from something you don’t want. Both can be powerful. Only one is sustainable.

Moving Away From – Motivation

A cliche that is true is that people will avoid change until the pain of stasis is more than the pain of change. In this scenario, we’re moving away from pain.

Pain, fear, anger can be great motivators. Those emotions can get us to move. Research studies back this up – uncomfortable emotional states drive a motivation to move away from feeling that way.

Many executives I work with come to me out of pain of some kind. It’s the pain of burnout, the pain of a business plateau, the pain of lack of passion or direction, or some combination of the pain of all of those. They reached the point where they have to do something different.

It’s not terrible advice to use those emotions – that discomfort – to look towards making a move. Be mindful of these two caveats.

Caveat #1: Running away from something can cloud judgment

When you’re running away from pain, your goal – consciously or unconsciously – is to relieve the pain. The means or end aren’t as important as the relief. That can drive you to make non-strategic moves. Using the emotions to get you motivated to move can help jump start the movement, yet you want to be quite mindful that the move you’re making is one that brings you closer to a preferred future.

Caveat #2: Running away from something is not sustainable

Research that confirms uncomfortable feelings can motivate us to move, also shows that our motivation from moving away from pain will carry us very far.

The diet industry is a prime example. It’s estimated over 80% of dieters gain the weight back following weight loss. People get so fed up with their health that they go through the pain of a diet program. Many times, when followed, it actually works. Yet, the diet program is typically challenging and feels unsustainable. When the person gets results, the pain that created the motivation to go through with the challenge is no longer present. That makes the arduous diet all the more challenging to uphold.

So, we’ll not sustain the diet and start the progression back to where we started. The pain was not there to motivate us to keep going, so that hard became harder and was undone.

Moving Towards  – Motivation

The flip side is running toward something that you want.

When I work with executives, one of my most important jobs is to flip the motivation from what they don’t want to making something that they do want just as motivating. When you find the thing that you do want is even more compelling than whatever you might have been running away from, motivation will stay higher longer.

Long term motivation is critical because it will help you develop the habits necessary for long term success. Rewriting old habits organically can take many reps over many months. Motivation will sustain you before the activity is habitual. Moreover, when adversity meets you, the person moving towards a vision will have the ability to summon the motivation to take the adversity head-on.

Usually, this pull toward something is bigger than a goal. It gets to the heart of why the goal is important. I’ve been faced with something motivating me to build more strength. My girls ask me to throw them and lift them in the pool every time we go swimming. My little 4 year old is a breeze. My 8 year old is getting challenging. I only have a few lifts of her before I need a break. I want to be able to lift my girls as long as they want me to. That vision is carrying me to emphasize my strength training.

Find a vision, a north star, to pull you forward and drive motivation.

Motivation comes in those two main flavors. Know when and how to leverage each to drive the short and longer term changes you need to have the business and life that you want – now and into the future.