Getting Motivated: Towards or Away From Your Goals

Some people are motivated away from the things that they don’t like and some people are motivated towards the things they want. For example, some people will work on increasing their income because they don’t like where they live or they don’t like being in debt. That would be called an Away From strategy; moving away from something that is uncomfortable. A Towards person increases their income because they are thinking of the home that they prefer or they are thinking about wanting to increase their savings or their retirement fund. Most people have some combination of both such as 60/40 in either direction. Statistically, this is the most common combination with most people leaning in one direction or the other rather than equally balanced. There is a social bias that a Towards strategy is preferable but that is not necessarily true. If someone has an Away From strategy and it is working then it is a good strategy.

If you are primarily motivated away from things that you don’t like then it is important that you use that strategy successfully to stay motivated. If your house is messy, there is a point where it gets to be too much and it gets tidied. At what point does the tidying begin? Does it begin at a comfortable level or is your house a disaster before you reach your threshold to clean it? Someone with an Away From strategy for cleaning their house has to notice the house becoming uncomfortable to get motivated to clean it. If you put on blinders and ignore the mess then your Away From strategy isn’t working. You will have to take the blinders off and notice how uncomfortable your house is to change the threshold and have a house that is comfortable.

A Towards person is thinking about how nice the house looks when it is clean and is motivated to get it to look the way they like it. If the Towards person forgets what their house looks like with everything put away then there is no motivation that way either. For a Towards person it is important to remember what is good about a tidy house so that they stay motivated to keep it the way that they like it.

In both cases the amount of work and effort is the same but one is motivated away from messiness and the other is motivated towards tidiness.

If you think about it for a moment you can probably figure out which motivation strategy you are using. Think about something that you regularly get done. Are you motivated away from discomfort or towards a goal? You probably have a different strategy in different contexts. Most people have variations depending on whether they are motivated in their career, at home, in their relationship, etc. If you’re not sure which strategy you are using in these different contexts you can begin to observe yourself being motivated to find out which strategy you primarily use.

If your motivation strategy isn’t working there are things you can do to turn it on more strongly. If you are primarily Away From, build your Away From strategy. Build your discomfort level by really noticing how bad the thing you don’t like is. If you hate your job, career, home or finances, and you want to change it – really notice how much you hate it and build that until you start moving away from it. If you have goals and things that you really want, notice how much you want them and develop that strongly. Think about what it will be like when you have what you want. Make it strong and really compelling.

Towards people are focused on a goal. They are thinking about what they want to achieve. They are motivated by what they want to get, have, achieve, or attain. They are energized by their goals and tend to be good at managing their priorities.

Away From people notice what they are avoiding, getting rid of and not allowing to happen. Their motivation is often triggered by an increase in difficulty or discomfort such as a new problem or an existing problem getting bigger that becomes a threat. Away From people respond to deadlines, penalties and negative consequences. They are good at troubleshooting, problem-solving, identifying obstacles and picking up on the things that could go wrong. They are motivated by fixing problems, correcting mistakes and a lack of mistakes. This is their style of writing and studying. They look for errors and correct them, constantly upgrading their accuracy by making corrections. They are often distracted by goals and are more motivated by a response to something negative. They are sometimes disliked by Towards people by being seen as negative, cynical, jaded, managing crises, and drawn to problems. To accurately determine an Away From strategy get beyond the surface reason for doing something. Most of us have been trained that it is better to think positively so our first response is often going to be in a positive direction. Dig deeper for the real reason that you want what you want and look for an avoidance pattern or a moving away strategy. Identify what you want and then find the reason why you want it. Do you want it because of what it will give you or do you want it because of what you will avoid? Away From people set goals, but they do it to avoid failure. Their reason for setting goals is Away From and that is what triggers them to take action on their goals. Away From people sometimes get easily distracted by any little thing that goes wrong. For an Away From person’s strategy to work they need to have a balance of some Towards thinking to stay focused on what they need to fix and what they want to accomplish.

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