Motivation - Fear or Desire?

I came across a statement in a book I was reading, it said, “The whole idea of motivation is a trap, forget motivation, just do it!”, meanwhile, that is one of the greatest motivational pitch I have heard. Motivation is not a set of mechanical gymnastics, or well-articulated psychological jargon. It is simply anything that gets you to take action towards a goal.  A critical look at successful individuals throughout the ages shows that most of them achieved victory after series of failed attempts. Brian Tracy in his book, Psychology of Achievement, tells of four millionaires who made their fortunes by the age of 35. The common thing among them, he noted, was that they all tried an average of 17 different things before they found the one that made them successful.  How many things did you attempt before you wrote yourself off? It takes a certain kind of relentlessness for someone to make an attempt one more time after failing 16 times.  It is in the building of this kind of tenacity, the kind that keeps trying until success is achieved, that the need for motivation is most recognised. 

As I mentioned in Motivation – The fuel of Life, motivation comes in many different ways and forms, but there are two broad umbrellas under which most others can be found; they are

·         Intrinsic or internal  
·         Extrinsic or external

Like the name suggests, the intrinsic motivation means the things that motivate the person are coming from within; power, acceptance, independence, social status etc. On the other hand, extrinsic motivation is based on external factors like; awards, bonuses, gifts etc.

Royale Scuderi in her article 6 types of motivation explained listed types of motivation as;
·         Incentive: those that involve rewards
·         Fear : those that involve painful consequences
·         Achievements: this involves competency and accomplishments
·         Growth: A desire for self-improvement.
·         Power: Desire of control or autonomy
·         Social : this includes acceptance, contribution, affiliation and the rest  

I want to briefly highlight also on two broad forms, which our motivations fall under. Most of the times, we may not even know which of them is motivating us and why, but that we don’t know which, does not mean we don’t suffer the effect all the same. The two broad ones are

·         Fear of failure
·         Desire for success

It may sound to you like they are almost the same, or the two sides of the same coin, but they are actually as different as day and night. It is the difference between someone running and thrashing Usain Bolt’s 9.58sec for the 100m world record because a ferocious dog was chasing him, and someone thrashing that record because someone is holding the key to a brand new car and announces that the first person to get it carries the car home.  Fear of failure has the need to avoid pain as its driving force, while the desire for success has the pleasure of reward as its focus.

Although the fear of failure is a strong motivation, it is not very healthy for us. Some people argue that since it gets the job done, it is as good as the next motivating factor, but, like all fear induced feelings, it takes a major toll on our bodies.  A child who needs to make an A in maths because an abusive father promised to show her hell if she achieves anything less, goes through more physical turmoil than the kid who needs to make an A because daddy promised her a visit to Disneyland. Although both of them are working to achieve the same goal, the child with the abusive father would die many times before the result comes out, and even after she succeeds, it’s more a relief than an achievement.

When success eludes us, like it mostly does at the beginning, recovery is very hard for the person motivated by fear. Once we accept we are failures when we fail, success becomes a pipe dream, because, fear does not give us the opportunity to make mistakes and recover and in other to succeed, you must fail and recover.

Ask yourself now, what is motivating you? Why are you trying to succeed? Is it because of some terrible memory you are fighting hard to forget, like watching the landlord embarrass your daddy for house rent every week, so you swore you will not be poor?  Or do you have a healthy desire to succeed in life by being the best you can? By setting and achieving your goals, failing and getting up, dusting your behind and trying again? You cannot enjoy success if it is inspired by the fear of failure, you may achieve the goal, but I don’t know about enjoying the success. 

Continue... Motivation - Everyday Vitamin

Image courtesy of Stoonn/

Kanayo Aniegboka

Kani is a Nigerian born and based minister, public speaker, entrepreneur and life coach. His keen and unique perspective to life issues makes him a refreshing voice to listen to. He currently serves as the Executive Coordinator of House on the Rock - Word House and sits on the board of a number of companies.

1 comment:

  1. When I was a little girl all I wanted in life was to make my dad proud of me, u may say I was a daddy' s little Girl! But as i grew up what motivated me came from my environment. I was motivated by fear factor n pursuit for success if you like. The fear of failure, the fear of being one of the mediocre from where I come from, fear of being pushed aside as a nonentity. So many fears compassed me. Still, I got motivated by success to run my race as a female gender in a man' s world ! To prove to the world that I too can make a difference and so on, but you know what all these factors culminated into my being today.
    Everyone needs a motivator be it a reward, a nudge or a push or even a 'bulala'( whip). The issue then is what will be the end result after you have met your desired goals or even exceeded it? The world is so full of the Jones! Be yourself after all that pursuits, motivate yourself even if there are no external factors to do so.