Are you motivating yourself to have more choice?


When you have a goal do you move purposefully towards it by focusing on what your success will look and feel like, or are you more driven by the fear of things going wrong?

Essentially, there are two forms of motivation:

  • Motivation AWAY FROM some undesired outcome (e.g. “I don’t want to be broke”)
  • Motivation TOWARDS some desired outcome (e.g. “I am heading for financial freedom”)

AWAY FROM motivation strongest when you’re close to what you want to avoid, so that’s when it’s most effective. Which means the further away from your goal you are the weaker your motivation. The result is Andrew Horder’s achievement wave pattern, that moves strongly away from the pain at first, but the moves back towards your pain as complacency sets in.

TOWARDS motivation is usually much more effective. It acts as a magnet, making it easier to get to your objective, the closer you get to it. So you’re far more likely to actually reach your goal.

But even towards motivation has its limitations. If your current situation is too far away from the dream, the attraction of your towards “magnet” isn’t strong enough to create the traction your progress needs to keep you motivated. So you’re facing a long, slow start which can leave you discouraged and unable even to use the weak attraction that’s available to you.

So, if TOWARDS motivation isn’t very good at the start, and AWAY FROM motivation doesn’t work once you start making progress what you need is a mixture of the two — in the right order.

Which means it’s best to use your AWAY FROM motivation to kickstart your progress away from pain. Then your TOWARDS, where the magnet of your goal can pull you towards it.

Using this combination correctly can radically reduce the time it takes you to achieve success.

So, while both forms of motivation have their place, TOWARDS is more effective for long-term success.

Don’t get hung up on whether you have the “right” sort of motivation. But do understand your dominant style so you can realise your goals more easily. Just because you’re working hard doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy it!

So what’s the most effective way to motivate yourself towards your goal. Then answer is anything that make you feel good because it gives you a sense of achievement.

The easiest way to get that is through the words you use. So here are some to use as often as possible, some to use with care and others to avoid — at least if your dominant motivation style is AWAY FROM language.

AWAY FROM words to avoid

While there are things we must do, unless we leave them to the last minute we can always choose how and when to do them. If we don’t, we risk using our AWAY FROM motivation to demotivate and stress ourselves because we don’t want to do something but feel we have no choice! Here are the most common ones.

  • Must/need to indicates the value you’re using to motivate yourself may well belong to someone or something else: your mother, your boss, your friends, workplace or community.
  • Have to also communicates that you’re trying to motivate yourself with someone else’s rules or expectations because you feel you have no other option.
  • Should/ought to reflect someone else’s priorities. Research also shows that these words stop us seeing how apparently incompatible options might actually be perfectly compatible: like knowing you’ve parked your car in a perfectly safe area, and still locking it.

These words narrow our perspective and therefore our choices, answers and options.

Feel what happens in your body when you use them. Make a note of how and when you use them because they can just as easily leave you feeling demotivated as they do ready to take action.

If they create a stress response, or leave you feeling demotivated, cut them out of your vocabulary for a while and focus on finding ways to motivate yourself that don’t sting when you use them. Then gradually reintroduce those you consciously choose to use because they don’t leave a sting.

TOWARDS WORDS TO USE at every opportunity

Here are some of my favourites:

  • Choose indicates a conscious choice rather than a subconscious (and therefore) automatic one you have no control over
  • I’m ready this shows you recognise that the thoughts and ideas forming in your head signify your readiness to start work on a task.
  • Really want like “I really want to do X today, I feel ready!” Adding the last phase removes any ambiguity to comunicate both to yourself and others I’m happily motivated and ready to work on my goal.
  • Could opens up your mind to new possibilities and supports your creative thinking.
  • If allows you to think hypothetically, which removes all the pressure that might otherwise prevent you from thinking outside the box especially when you pair it with What ….

COMBINATION WORDS to use with care

  • Want can go both ways. It might seem a positive TOWARDS word to use, but it can also be about something you want that you don’t have.
  • Really want can be used so long as there’s no hint of lack that comes with it. See above.
  • Why? is a powerful way to reveal what’s motivating you. It’s also a powerful way to break a limiting habit because it helps you understand why you’re doing something in the first place. So it acts as a motivator by giving you the information you need to make a much-needed change. But use it with care. Never combine it with a criticism, or use it in a way that could be perceived as one!

Choosing my motivation words helps me change the way I work to leverage the benefits they bring. Once I know I have to do something I make a note of the task, then I let my brain bring me the best ideas by giving it time to sift through all the information it’s archived in my head. usually this takes a day or two. And while I’m waiting I get on with other things but make sure I always make a note of any ideas as they come.

Getting them out of my head and onto paper or screen clears my head if I’m not ready to work on something. And if I am, it gives me the information I need to start thinking linearly so I can create a structure for the task from the ideas that have come up. And as they say, 1 minute of preparation saves 10 minutes of execution!

When I’m writing a blog because I “should” write it to stay on track with my goals, it can take up to 5 hours before it’s anywhere close to decent. When I write because I feel inspired by an idea and ready to use it, it takes an hour.

Acting on my TOWARDS motivation with thoughts that use motivating language:

  • brings me more clarity around what I want to say
  • speeds up my writing
  • increases my productivity
  • improves the quality of what I write

And motivates me even more because I’m not just meeting a goal, I’m enjoying meeting it!

How could you use TOWARDS motivation to benefit your work?


I’m very grateful to Andrew Horder for the use of his images. But they wouldn’t have made nearly as much sense if I hadn’t used other parts of his blog too. So I’ve turned this into a joint blog by adapting Andrew’s to give the perfect background for my focus on the importance of the language you use. You can read his original at Thanks Andrew!