“Don’t be shit” – the power of negative motivation.

Think of the word “motivation”. Think of words associated with “motivation”. Most people will likely think of words of encouragement, lovely little Instagram posts filled with inspiring words and preachings to aim higher, achieve greater, you’ve got this, etc etc.

I’ve been thinking about motivation, and what motivates me, and surprisingly found that I am not necessarily motivated by a desire to be better, but rather by a fear of being anything less than average.Defining negative motivation is difficult. Essentially, it is behaviour that is motivated or fuelled by fear or anticipation that the worst or most undesirable outcome will arise if a poor performance takes place.

Whatever I have challenged myself to do, albeit running, moving to a new city, or attempting to further my career – the most powerful motivator I have had (sadly or not) has been negative motivation. Is this such a bad thing?

Just over a year ago, I had a new colleague join the workplace. Her mum, coincidentally, used to teach me at the secretarial college I went to. The new colleague admitted to knowing that her mum had taught me and had sought some insight into what I was like before meeting me. Obviously I was insanely intrigued as to what her mum recalled of me, and her description of me was along the lines of “nice girl, but won’t set the world on fire”. I’m sorry, but if someone says that about you, and this doesn’t get you all riled up and defensive and fearful for your future then you have got to be pretty damn lazy not to care.

Of course, this description of me could have been a LOT worse. I was, however, left feeling somewhat insulted and slighted and it definitely flicked a switch in my brain that told me I HAVE to make something of my life. I HAVE to do something that sets the world on fire. I don’t exactly know how, but I know that my attitude and perseverance towards life and my projects has soared considerably since hearing this. This negative motivation, this fear of being average and just “nice” has been enough for me to leave my old job to seek a higher salary and begin an exciting new enterprise (one which I hope to be able to share with you all over the coming months).

I achieve a lot of my goals using negative motivation. Sometimes this stems from my own thoughts – a fear of being fat being the motivation to eat healthy. My ex-boyfriend telling me that “running a marathon takes a certain tenacity and mental capability – both things you don’t have” – this then lead me to actually completing the Brighton Marathon earlier this year – all whilst being motivated by the fact that he would see that I AM capable and I do have mental strength. Even my mum’s “good luck” card had the word’s “don’t be shit” in bold letters… all things which work so much better for me than seemingly meaningless “you’ll smash it” words of so called wisdom.

Here is a really interesting article written about negative motivation and how we can use it to help us http://www.positivityblog.com/index.php/2008/01/29/how-negative-motivation-can-help-us-overcome-problems/

It basically underlines the fact that negative motivation can be useful in as much as it can highlight our areas of weakness, so that we can work on these to become the best possible version of ourselves.

If negative motivation is apparent in the workplace (i.e. we are motivated to do a good job out of fear of losing money), then this is essentially a survival technique and can essentially help us win pitches, work faster, and be more efficient.

Does anyone else use negative motivation to push them to achieve their goals? Does anyone try to avoid negative motivation? Let me know.

4 thoughts on ““Don’t be shit” – the power of negative motivation.

  1. Melissa LeGates, professional writer says:

    I get this because yes it motivates me as well. I’m retired military and for some reason I find that men were and sadly still are very competitive with me. I always hated that but in one instance I was like there is no way I was going to allow my male counterpart to make rank i.e. get the next promotion before me. It motivated me to study and I did achieve the rank of staff sgt. before my male coworker. So it was a somewhat negative base motivation that pushed me to excel. I never held that over him or even told him he was my motivation. It was my little secret and it worked. So I don’t feel bad for turning something negative directed at me into a positive. I say go with it…just don’t turn into a jerk over it when you succeed. Thanks for sharing.


    • dreamworkwinblog says:

      I am glad this resonates with someone else too. I can only imagine how the men and women could be viewed differently within a military environment so good on you for smashing your goals anyway and achieving the next rank!! What an example for us all. I also completely relate with it being a little secret. The fact that I’m not all that fussed about being healthy (just don’t particularly want to gain weight) is something I’ve kept to myself until now.

      Liked by 1 person

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