Motivation is a sneaky beast. It can hide in plain sight, and it can express itself when we least expect it. Motivation (and its frequent companion inspiration) can often elude us for days, weeks or years, only to jump out at in an instant with such force that we drop everything in order to capture it before we lose the moment.
Often times, these random “attacks of motivation” happen with little warning, when we are least prepared to take advantage of them. For instance, how many of you have had a moment of clarity or have felt motivated to act on some idea while in the shower? How many of you have perhaps had a similar feeling when going for a run or driving to work? Motivation can come at any time and in any way. Unfortunately, the very randomness keeps us from being able to act effectively to get more done. So what do we do to take hold of our lives and guide our own sources of motivation?
To get more done in less time, we need to understand the power of two types of motivation. Once we explore each of these types of motivation, we must learn to set goals around both to create positive feedback loops. This will make it easier for us to develop stronger motivational habits and take control of what motivates us.
While there are many ways to define motivation, today I will focus on two types: avoidance and approach motivation. The way we will define both types of motivation provides an in-depth look into how we see the world, and ultimately how successful we will be in it.
1. What is avoidance motivation?
Avoidance motivation is part of what makes us human, and it is integral to our survival. This type of motivation helps us avoid negative experiences across psychological, physical, and social boundaries. It’s what told us to run away from saber-toothed tigers or to not dive into shark infested waters looking for food. Clearly, avoidance is a good way of staying safe in a world of unknowns. Unsure about what your boss thinks about your last project? It’s best not to ask to avoid disappointment or emotional trauma. Considering whether to apply for a job in another country? Best to avoid it in case you like the culture.
Unfortunately, avoidance motivation often has negative consequences. It makes us more likely to avoid tasks that we know rationally will be positive experiences for us. It makes us avoid going for that big promotion we aren’t necessarily qualified for. It makes us not get on that airplane to travel to that new new country and experience that new culture.
“Press forward. Do not stop, do not linger in your journey, but strive for the mark set before you.” — George Whitefield
2. What is approach motivation?
Approach motivation is any type of motivation that drives action and forward progress towards a certain outcome or activity. It’s what pushes the nerdy high school kid to talk to their crush in the hallway. It’s what drives the explorer to see what the view looks like from the top of the tallest mountain. It’s the itch the traveller gets when they go too long without taking a trip. It’s what inspired humans to explore outer space. Rather than avoiding certain activities, approach motivation drives individuals to explore and become more productive in their day-to-day existence.
When we consider approach motivation, the most often cited examples relate to feelings of opportunity, fulfilment and exploration. When you see an opportunity to achieve some goal that falls along Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs, you are more likely to take action. When you see the opportunity to grow your pool of resources, that may motivate you to take action (strengthening your ability to provide food and shelter to yourself and your family). Similarly, you may see the opportunity to gain recognition or acclaim through appearing on television or writing a blog post. This feeds your ability to achieve self-fulfilment, belonging and perhaps even self-actualisation.
“Don’t watch the clock; do what it does. Keep going.” — Sam Levenson
So how do we take this information and action it? How do we make it useful on a day-to-day basis?
The best way to leverage the lessons of approach and avoidance motivation is to set goals that align with each type of motivation. Take the following approach to help guide you on the path to taking control of what motivates you:
First, understand the difference between avoidance and approach goals. Most people will find that they tend to avoid activities that are unpleasant to them, all the while approaching those activities that are most enjoyable or fulfilling. Let’s think of approach goals as positive (i.e. finishing a project ahead of schedule, finding a new job) and avoidance goals as negative (i.e. avoiding drinking too much, avoiding talking in public).
Avoidance goals are goals for reducing, avoiding or eliminating undesired outcomes. While these goals are powerful, they are often harder to accomplish. You may want to cut down the number of sweets you eat each day, the number of cigarettes you smoke, the total time you spend watching Netflix. These types of goals work, sometimes, but they are much more likely to stick if you spin them to an approach goal with a positive spin.
Approach goals aim to guide someone to reach or maintain a desired outcome. People are more likely to commit to completing tasks and taking part in activities that are positioned in a positive light. Approach goals become more potent motivational goals because they focus on action and activity around what can be done to reach a goal.
If you want to get better at setting and following through on your personal and career goals, make a point of creating both approach and avoid goals and being aware of the subtle differences between both.
Do you have any approach or avoidance goals that have been particularly challenging to reach? Would love to hear about them!
It’s What You Do On A ‘Bad Day’ That Matters.
Last Friday was a bad day for me. I woke up late, missed the gym and didn’t meditate.
None of this was intentional.
I then turned my computer on to do what I do every day: blog. I was not prepared for the whirlwind that followed.
As I opened up my social media channels, there were a lot more than usual, direct messages. I started reading each one and they were from colleagues and friends who wanted to warn me that I had a large amount of hate-fuelled comments on social media. I’m usually pretty good at dealing with hate comments. Not on that day, though — I was having a ‘bad day.’
I turned off the computer and didn’t respond to anybody. In the same week, I’d been told I was now a LinkedIn Top Voice for 2018.
I should have been celebrating and I didn’t because I didn’t feel worthy. If anything, I wanted to give up there and then. Luckily I didn’t follow through with any of these ideas. I knew it was just noise in my awful day.
I went away to sit on the couch and think about what I’d just read. Without really thinking about what I was going to do for the rest of the day, I began thinking about my team at work. There were several leadership challenges that I had to solve.
One was from a customer that was being abusive to female staff. Another was a rejection I had to deliver to someone that wanted to work with us. The hardest part about delivering the rejection was that I’d already said yes.
Despite the day being bad, I made a fundamental decision — to keep doing what I do and not stop. I said to myself “How can I inspire people while simultaneously solving both these challenges?”
I’m a big believer that it’s not what you say that matters; it’s what you do. Talk is cheap. I came up with a bold plan to address both challenges.
I was going to do something that made me see the good in the people involved.
Even if the people in both situations had let me down, I was going to assume they were still good.
I concocted a plan to help both people and try and show them a more positive way to move forward. If I break down the plan, it was about being an inspiration in both situations.
I didn’t feel like being inspiring.
It was not the day to be inspiring.
But it was the only way I could motivate myself to finish off this bad day and wake up the next morning fresh. It’s funny how a good nights sleep takes away all the pain and negativity from the day before.
So, by the end of the day, I enabled both plans. I set out to release inspiration in both scenarios and that was my only focus. I didn’t look at anymore hate fuelled comments or go near social media.
On that bad day last Friday, my actions helped me keep moving forward and not give up.
It’s not about necessarily seeing the good in your bad day.
I’ve read this sort of advice heaps, but it requires a lot of willpower.
“Using your actions to make the day better rather than trying to think your way out of your bad day seems to be a lot easier to implement”
It’s not about the bad day.
Bad days will happen.
It’s what you do on a bad day that determines if you’ll feel the full effect of all the negativity that can potentially knock you out like a Tsunami that comes your way when all you wanted to do was lay on the beach and soak up some sun.
I’ve learned to find situations during a day that’s not working out well for me, to do something good, and often that’s not something that benefits me. If I was to look at it another way it would be “How do I not focus on my own bad day?”
Trying to make someone else’s day good distracts you from your own bad day.
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This Is How An Ordinary Person Can Make Their Country Better.
Someone asked on the internet how they can make their country better.
They considered themselves ordinary and felt that they had to be someone special to make a difference in their country, India.
Their question made me feel a bit emotional because I can relate. I too have also dreamt of making my country better.
The most common answer to this question is to get involved in politics.
Many of you reading this find politics really boring including me. I’ve learned through my own experience that politics is not the only way you can make your country better.
Here’s how you can make your country better:
Use your voice
When I was faced with the question “How do I make my country better?” I decided to use my voice.
It was this decision that changed everything. I spent every day using my voice to stand for something. I wanted to inspire the world through entrepreneurship and personal development.
So, I started using my voice by posting on LinkedIn. I used my voice and transcribed it into words to tell the citizens of my country what I think they needed to hear.
Using your voice is incredibly scary at first. As soon as you start sharing your thoughts, many people will say nothing. You’ll get almost no feedback. As your voice starts to get louder over time (probably years) the opposite will happen and you’ll attract trolls and critics.
The hardest part about using your voice is having the courage every day to use it and not being obsessed with the outcome.
By using my voice online through blogging and LinkedIn, I managed to get a 35,000 person bank to start talking about my ideas with staff and customers, and I was voted LinkedIn Australia’s Top Voice that year.
Using the power of your voice is the number one way you can change your country.
It’s in your experiences, ideas and thoughts that you can find what it is that can help your country.
In my country, Australia, we are quite well off, but we still lack a positive mindset. Some of us work jobs we hate and we like things that only money can buy. There’s a competition to get the biggest house or the most expensive car.
It’s not a problem everyone in Australia suffers from, but it’s widespread. I believe by using my own voice to inspire people to seek alternatives, I can change my country.
The results thus far suggest I’m well on the way to changing my country.
Changing your country seems like a huge task. It sounds like something only a Nelson Mandela sort of fella can achieve. That’s not true.
A simple understanding of the power of kindness can change your country.
There was this guy I read about online that changed his country by giving out free hugs because he couldn’t run in the local marathon. He embraced his kind nature and ended up impacting millions of people in his country.
Being kind is infectious because we’re wired to do it. When we see one person be kind, we want to do the same.
The problem in my country (and many others) is that we’ve sacrificed kindness for greed.
We’ve let our country’s economy become the most important factor instead of measuring the way we treat people and the ability of a country’s nation to overcome adversity together.
Kindness is so important because every one of our countries will face adversity, and kindness is the solution to that inevitable problem.
Pick up the trash
This one seems even smaller in impact. It’s not.
I found that by picking up the rubbish I saw in places like my apartment lobby, I was able to show myself that I care about my country.
When we care about our country, we choose to make it look beautiful so others can enjoy it. Something simple like picking up the trash can take you a long way towards helping your country.
Every country has an environmental problem and picking up rubbish can help solve it. If we all picked up one piece of trash, then each of our country’s would be a hell of a lot cleaner.
Don’t think you can’t make your country better
A lot of what I’ve learned, by trying to make my own country better, has come from the belief that I can have an impact.
There are so many people who want to do nothing more than complain which wastes time and energy and doesn’t make anyone’s country better.
The way you make your country better is by believing you can and taking one or two small actions to start the process.
The people that change their country believe they can.
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