Positive versus Negative Motivation
#MondayMusings - Personal Development

Positive versus Negative Motivation

One of the biggest challenges most of us face when it comes to self improvement, growth and success is finding ourselves lacking the motivation and drive mid-way. You already know that consistency is the key to getting things done, but how exactly do you keep yourself going?Positive versus negative motivation. Which one is better? What works for you?

Positive versus Negative Motivation: Which One’s Better?

Positive Motivation

Positive motivation stems from your desire of a better future or the sweetness of achieving that goal- that end result that you have in mind. This kind of motivation can be extremely powerful, since you’ll be more likely to be driven and passionate if your end result has a materialistic gain involved, or even an emotional one- such as better self esteem.

Some individuals are known to respond extremely well to positive stimulation and the idea of being financially independent and well known in their career path can really push them to do better, and can motivate them.

Positive motivation, however, fails to be as effective when it comes to long term goals, and that’s simply because it can be hard to keep pace when the fruits of your labor are far away. To work things around for this, however, a good idea is to break down your goal into short term goals to give you that immediate sense of achievement.

Negative Motivation

Negative motivation, in contrast with the positive one, is driven by fear of failure. For example, you might be motivated to quit smoking after you’ve watched someone struggling with cancer. In some cases, negative motivation works as well as, and infact, even better than positive motivation does. This is because certain people are driven by anxiety and fear, and the fear of not performing well, being less in control and not powerful can push them to keep going.

Negative motivation is the other side of the coin, and while it might work well, it isn’t always a good idea.

Which One’s Better?

Both positive and negative motivation have their own pros and cons, but if you’re looking for a well-researched, definitive answer, here it is! A study published years back attempted to find out the influence of positive and negative reinforcement when it comes to to human behavior, and it was found that a combination of both these types of reinforcements worked the best.

It was found that an average person was more likely to stay motivated when there is a healthy balance of both- reward and fear associated with completing the task at hand.

Start implementing this knowledge in your life- remind yourself of both- the emotions that you’ll experience when you win, and those that you’ll feel when you don’t! Look for the passion in your life- whether it comes from negative sources or positive ones, and use that to keep yourself going.


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An inspirational writer, a creativity and writing trainer/coach, I write about life, gratitude, healing, wellness, relationships at Everyday Gyaan. I offer training/coaching to anyone looking to explore their creativity and heal through writing via The Frangipani Creative, located in Secunderabad, India. You can also find me on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Sign up for my weekly newsletter, Bytes of Gyaan, on Substack.

7 Comments on “Positive versus Negative Motivation

  1. In my case, negative motivation seems to work more. I study more and work more when I am tensed about the consequences otherwise. Worry has often driven me to work harder. But yes, it has given me a lot of dull days which I definitely didn’t enjoy. When it comes to positive motivation, I feel there’s enough time to get better and tell myself not to hurry. So much so that a long time passes by idly. I guess I need to figure out how to attain a balance.

  2. For me, it’s more often the positive motivation that works. Negative motivation works sometimes, like when I am harsh with myself, when I am feeling low and need a push. It does sound weird, but that’s how it is. I need to get that negativity out of my head, right? 🙂

  3. I recently read a really helpful way of looking at this. The phrase used was “Play the Tape through tho the End.” In other words, the temptation to give in to laziness or other undisciplined behavior is focused on the short-term benefit. If we think about it, realization of the long-term loss may help us to make a better choice.
    Thanks for all your good research and writing here!

  4. For me, it is positive motivation predominantly, but negative motivation gets me going in some cases. I enrolled myself in a driving school because of fear and helplessness in case of an emergency. That’s another story that I couldnt learn driving.

  5. What a great post C – I think both work for me though negative puts the fear of death in me. It also makes me judge myself very harshly, so I don avoid doing so.

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