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Positive Motivation vs. Negative Motivation: Which One Works Better?

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It’s not uncommon to struggle with motivation. It’s a tricky beast to tame, but it’s also incredibly powerful. A bout of motivation every day is all you need to sustain a career move or pursue a personal goal over the long-term.

For most people, motivation is fleeting. It drives you to complete a whole week’s worth of work over the weekend without realizing it, but disappears on Monday when you really need to get started with something new at work. It’s hard to control and keep alive when you need it most.

Scientists seem to define motivation as the willingness to do something. It’s a very intrinsic and natural drive to take something new on and complete it successfully. Digging deeper it seems every action and thought we have is guided by our built-in motivations. Psychologists believe that the basis of human behavior is the sticks and carrots the mind associates with different activities. Every decision and behavior is rooted in the mind’s perception of pleasure and pain.

It appears that the mind and body will simply not act till the pain of not doing something outweighs the pain of doing it. Similarly, the rewards of doing something must outweigh the temporary reward of not doing it. This means there are two forms of motivation – negative and positive. But which one works better?

Positive Motivation

Positive motivation comes from an internal drive to seek out pleasure. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs explains this well. You’re more likely to act when the results of an action are a direct impact on one of your needs – like the need for self actualization or self esteem.

Some people respond very well to positive stimulation. Thinking about the pleasures of being financially independent or well recognized within an industry can push people to achieve impossible feats in their career.

You can create positive motivation by either reminding yourself of the benefits of a task or by setting up rewards for yourself for completing something. It’s the equivalent of setting up carrots or thinking about the carrots as you go about doing what you need to do.

For example, visualizing a thinner, better looking version of yourself could push you to get up and exercise in the morning. At the same time, you could probably reward yourself with a bottle of wine if you meet your weekly targets at work. Both these methods are positive and can really get you to meet the targets you set.

“Ability is what you’re capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it.” – Lou Holtz

Negative Motivation

Negative motivation is about punishment and fear. It’s the sort of motivation that gets you to quit smoking because you’ve witnessed someone struggle with cancer. Of course, not every motivation needs to be dramatic or dreadful. You could be motivated to stay at your job because you don’t want to lose the house, or could be paying the bills on time because you want to avoid the penalty.

Negative motivation is likely to work just as well as positive motivation, but for some people it’s a lot more effective. Certain people are driven by fear and anxiety. The looming threat of loss is too much to bear for some individuals and they tend to take action more quickly in such scenarios.

You can apply negative motivation by reminding yourself of the consequences of not doing something. You could also apply this sort of motivation by setting up punishments for not completing some task. Working over the weekend because you didn’t complete an assignment over the week or seeking out criticism from friends to help you improve your work are both examples of negative motivations that propel action.

“Success is not built on success. It’s built on failure. It’s built on frustration. Sometimes, it’s built on catastrophe.” – Summer Redtsone

Which one is better?

So, which of the two types of motivation work best? The good news is this is an area of psychology that has been well researched and there is a definite answer. In the 1940’s B.F. Skinner published a number of academic studies that showed the effects of what he called “positive and negative reinforcement.” Skinner’s studies were based on experiments on lab mice that indicated how human beings responded to reinforcement.

The research found that both types of reinforcement were abundant in the systems created to extract work. Some people responded better to positive reinforcements like rewards, while others responded better to negative reinforcement like punishments. Researchers Kelly J Bouxsein, Henry S Roane, and Tara Harper expanded on this study and found that a combination of the two types worked best. It seems the average person is best motivated when there is a little bit of reward and a justified amount of punishment for completing or not completing the task at hand.

You can apply this knowledge to better motivate yourself in the future. At work and in your personal life there’s likely to be a system of checks and balances that motivate you to do things. But you need to go beyond this and create a sense of personal motivation. Take the time to understand yourself and set up a system of rewards and punishments that will push you to achieve more.

Which type of motivation works better for you? Please leave your thoughts below!

Alan Morris is a blogger from San Diego,California. Alan believes that a positive mindset leads to a positive life. He enjoys talking about health, motivation, and personal development. Talk to Alan on Facebook or Twitter.

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Change Your Mindset

5 Ways To Achieve Your Goals (With Examples)

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Setting goals is a crucial first step, whether you’re striving to reach personal or professional milestones. However, achieving those goals requires planning, determination, and focus. In this post, we’ll discuss five actionable strategies that can help you achieve your goals in 2023, and we’ll provide real-life examples to inspire and motivate you. By implementing these tips, you can train your brain to achieve your goals and make meaningful progress toward your aspirations.

1. Write Down Your Goals

The first thing needed to achieve a goal is to have one. A goal becomes very clear and precise once you have written it down most simply and easily to remember.

Here are some examples:

  • I am the world’s best dancer!
  • I am the greatest athlete!
  • I have created the world’s most innovative tech company!

They are all written with the belief that these things have already happened. Once you start believing it has already happened, other people too can sense your confidence and things start happening.

“If you want to be happy, set a goal that commands your thoughts, liberates your energy and inspires your hopes.” — Andrew Carnegie

2. The One Page Plan

A simple one-page plan to accompany your goal is much more powerful than a detailed 30-page plan. After you have written your clear goal – write down all the things you will have to do to achieve it. Make it as simple and direct as possible so that you can refer to it every day and take action. A simple plan is easier to follow and keep up with.

3. Get The Right Skills

Once you have a clear goal that has been inked into your mind, and a clear plan in place, it is very important to invest in the skills you need to achieve your goal.

So for example, if you want to become a movie star, you should immediately start developing your acting skills. Observe how other actors perform, join an acting class, read about acting, and most importantly, start honing your craft by joining a local theatre group and going for as many auditions as you can. Practice is very important for mastering any skill.

Struggling To Achieve Your Goals? Here Are 9 Possible Reasons Why! 

4. Surround Yourself With The Best People

The best way to achieve our goals is to make sure we have the best people supporting us. People who succeed are always those who understand the power of people.

So let’s say your goal is to be an entrepreneur and you have developed your entrepreneurial skills, the next step would be to get the best people to join your team to help you achieve your goal. These would be people who you consider to be the best marketers capable of getting you the best customers and investors.

Once you have the best people supporting you, it becomes much easier and faster to achieve your goals.

“It takes tremendous discipline to control the influence, the power you have over other people’s lives.” – Clint Eastwood

5. Power of Faith

Nothing beats the power of faith and belief. Sometimes you might face challenges, sometimes things might not be going your way, and you might feel like giving up – these are the times when faith and belief will keep you going.

So many people give up, just a few inches away from victory. I am sure you are not one of them since you are investing time into self-development which gives the highest returns! Now go out there and start achieving your goals!

Need more motivation? Read our blogs on motivation and become your best self now!

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Change Your Mindset

5 Easy Ways to Find Motivation When You’re Feeling Stuck

One of the easiest and most beneficial ways to get motivated is to get up and get active

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We’ve all had those days when we feel like we just can’t get motivated to do anything. Whether it’s an important task that needs to be done or something we just don’t feel like doing, it can be hard to get going. (more…)

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Change Your Mindset

7 of The Best Motivational Speeches of All Time

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What could we possibly achieve by listening to motivational speeches? Isn’t that a waste of time? It’s not. A great motivational speech can be a trigger to action. It inspires you to do something. Powerful speeches make you realize you’re not just a useless individual in this world. Everyone matters. You matter, too. (more…)

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Change Your Mindset

Motivational Advice You Never Hear From Elon Musk

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Elon Musk is the hottest entrepreneur on the planet right now. From launching an electric car into space, buying Twitter, and tunneling holes throughout the country, his unconventional ventures are inspiring millions. (more…)

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