[Article] Motivation re-visited

Every business leader wants their people to be motivated. Preferably to do what the leader wants them to do!

There have been a lot of wise words written – and backed up by research – about what motivates people. In NLP we’re also interested in how people are motivated. That is, we look at the thought processes that create motivation.

You may be familiar with the idea of Towards and Away From motivation.

Towards motivation is the kind of motivation that is focused around the positive benefits of a particular course of action. “If I do this, I get something I want.”

Away From motivation is focused around avoiding something undesirable. “If I do this, I’ll avoid something I don’t want.”

Because of this, some people regard Away From motivation as negative and less effective than Towards motivation. But the point is, both ways of thinking produce motivation – they create the drive to do something.

It’s been pointed out to me that Away From motivation peters out once the worst has been avoided. That can mean that someone using an Away From motivation strategy can end up not achieving very much – just avoiding a lot of problems!

I’ve often been asked how to change a habit of Away From motivation for one of Towards motivation.

And yet…

Some of the most successful and goal-oriented people I’ve met are Away From motivated.

I started digging a bit deeper to figure out how that works.  And this is what I discovered:

It’s all to do with the time frame someone uses.

If you are focusing on the present, then once the immediate problem or discomfort ends, the motivation will run out. If you are focusing on the future, it’s a different matter.

A lot of very successful people are driven by the need not to fail in achieving their goals. That need to not fail keeps them working hard until the goal is achieved.

In the same way, Towards motivation that is present-oriented will have you lounging on the sofa, eating chocolate or drinking beer – because it feels good now!

Towards motivation that is future oriented will keep you working towards your goals, even if it’s painful today, the rewards will come tomorrow or next week or next month.

The key to success is not in the style of motivation you habitually use, it’s in the time frame that gets most of your focus.