Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Motivation - Towards and Away From

Previously we've talked about motivation being driven by our internal preferences or external force. Another way to look at motivation is the old analogy of the carrot and the stick.

Things we want and desire that we work towards; or those things we find on some level painful we want to move away from.
These are often classified as 'towards' motivation and 'away from' motivation, or pleasure and pain.

It seems logical and simple doesn't it?

However people are complex things and often motivation towards a positive result is simply masking movement away from a deeper rooted pain.

Towards Motivation
As it's name suggests, towards motivation is all about moving toward a goal. 
If you are predominantly a towards motivated person you will do things for the reward at the end of the task.
Towards motivated people tend to strive to be the best and crave recognition. They are motivated by competition and love targets and league tables.

Away Motivation
Away motivation is linked to pain, which is one of the greatest motivators.
Now we're not talking necessarily about physical pain, it can be physical or have elements of physical discomfort but it might also be emotional or physiological discomfort.
Generally away motivated individuals do things out of fear of what might happen. It often takes an extreme measure to prompt an an away motivated individual into action. Also, once a little action is taken and the situation instantly becomes less threatening that motivation quickly evaporates.
This is characterised by just doing enough to get by.

The classic example used to illustrate towards and away from motivation is smoking.

For the towards motivated person they quit because they want the health benefits and lifestyle of a non-smoker.
For the away from motivated person they are worried about the health consequences of smoking and so stop out of fear.

Many people tend to use one system more frequently than the other, but this does not mean that you should discard your less dominant motivational system. You should make effective use of both systems to ensure that you are harnessing your full motivational potential.

Another example (courtesy of

Away from motivation

The first man had grown up in poverty, never knew what Christmas presents were, never guaranteed that there was food on the table, constantly hearing his parents argue about money. This man had it set in his mind that once he grew up he would not be poor, he would not have his children live in the environment he did when growing up. To him he linked extreme pain to being poor and did everything he could to move away from it. He was a classic case of away from motivation, yet he had great success at what he did. He has successfully implemented this strategy in other aspects of his life as well. During hard times he would catch changes that were happening because for him it was an anticipation of pain. So he took action before it got to that point.
Towards motivation
The other man had a very different mindset. He grew up in a middle class family, had plenty to eat, got nice presents at Christmas and lived what a lot of us would call a good life. He was very much into sports and loved going to school. When he was about 16 years old he made up his mind that he wanted to make his first million by the age of 30, he had a very clear picture in his head of what it would look like, feel like, what it would sound like. The only thing he wasn´t sure about at that point was how he was going to do it. He applied the same technique to this as when he played sports, when he was on the field he knew exactly what it would feel like to score, what it sounded like with the crowd cheering and had a clear image as his fellow team mates gathered around him. He knew the technique behind towards motivation and used it in other aspects of his life as well. He was always looking for now opportunities and did his best at utilizing every chance he got.



  1. i don't know why.. but, mm... a feel motivated.. lol.
    nice post

  2. My Professor actually gave a similar lecture today at school. Interesting.

  3. this is certainly helpful, and interesting. Good post! Keep up the great work!

  4. i am a towards motivation person- but i like being complacent so ill get nowhere

  5. i use this to keep myself off drugs

  6. Great post! I needed some motivation!

  7. damn I really need some motivation in my life... I do way too many drugs and am barely productive anymore lol

  8. Great post! Keep up the good blogging it will eventually pay off!

  9. interesting comparison there

  10. This is pretty awesome. I like both forms

  11. These are great examples. xo

  12. alright, im going to go do some shit now

  13. i love your posts man, im starting a new venture and its all motivation based. mostly through my internal self

  14. I'm totally towards motivation.

  15. great post. looking forward to reading your next one

  16. Thanks for sharing this. Really helpful!

  17. thanks for the motivation. good info.

  18. All very interesting points. thanks for enlightening me. :)

  19. This really resonated with me. Although I'm a towards motivator, there's times when if feels like they're both in play. Like I strive to be fit because I like how that plays into my lifestyle, but it's also because I was quiet in high school, and I feel like it moves me away from that 'pain'

    Great post

  20. well explained. both motivations which can certainly help reach goals and resolutions.

  21. Very nice! thanks for the info

  22. I have an unfortunate problem with being consumed by away motivation. =(

  23. i could always use some motivation. you can never have enough imo

  24. Hello lovely :)!

    thanks so much for your comment :)!

    Wish you a great day :)

    with love

  25. Sign me up for Towards Motivation... I'll take an annual membership if possible. Price is not an object!

  26. following and $upporting

    your best friend in the blogo$phere

  27. Long read, but worth it.