Is Pain a Motivator For You

Carol was a new client.  She had been looking for a job for several weeks and wasn’t having much success.  As with most of my clients I asked her to envision herself working in the job she really wanted.  As we talked she was really excited about the possibilities.  I really caught her short though when I asked her what she saw happening if she couldn’t find this job.

Like many of my clients Carol was reluctant to visit a place of pain.  Many clients object to that question saying that they don’t want to think negatively.  There is so much written today about positive thinking that most of us go around like Pollyannas believing that wishing will make it so.  There is however merit in acknowledging the possibility of pain being a motivator.  It can in fact lead you to being happy at work.

A part of the population is very competitive.  Winning is a strong value for them.  When my daughter was a youngster she was playing a board game with her brother.  When she saw she was losing she hit the board so all the pieces got mixed up.  I guess she thought it would be better to have no one win then for her to lose. She was extremely competitive. Those who are very competitive hate to lose so that they do whatever it takes to “make it happen”.  (Sometimes at someone else’s expense!)

What about the rest of us?  I include myself here too because I am not someone who likes winning for its own sake. How can those of us who aren’t so fiercely competitive really commit to a goal and make it happen?  One way is to visit the negative outcome of not achieving the goal.  The more painful the outcome the more motivated you’ll be to work toward your goal and away from the pain.

One branch manager I had at AT&T told the management team that she liked to hire sales people who had just taken a big mortgage on a house. (The bigger the better!)  Without making the sales these people would lose their homes.  Now that is a huge negative impact for not making quota.  (I drew the line when she asked us to encourage the sales force to increase their debt!)

Your vision is something you want to move toward and the negative outcome is something you want to move away from.  Sometimes it is the “moving away from” piece that is more motivating than the “moving toward” one.

If you have ever had a manager who humiliated the people who didn’t do the job the way he/she wanted it done then you understand the motivating power of the “moving away from” outcome. (Think “You’re fired” on The Apprentice or firing someone by telling them on Twitter.)  These bosses can and do get the job done but what many of us really want to do is move away from them. If Carol had a boss like that and she couldn’t work with that style of manager then she might see a bigger negative impact of not finding the job she envisioned.   She would have to continue working for that boss.

Solo professionals and sales people know that when they are hungry (making their quota literally puts food on the table) they work harder, smarter and faster to accomplish the work.  Here you could be working toward the vision of plenty of food or away from an empty table.

So how about you?  What are you doing to reach your goals?  Do you feel yourself floundering as the year is progressing?  Look at your business or career plan. Are you one quarter of the way toward reaching your goals?  If you want to speed up the process consider finding the impact of a negative outcome.

Take action

  1. What is your vision? To help you with that go to Vision For Career and Life -10 Powerful Questions
  2. What is the negative impact of not accomplishing your goal?
  3. Do you feel energy and excitement from your vision?
  4. Are you repelled by the negative impact?
  5. How can you use both of these to move yourself forward?

Vision Coaching

Do you have a vision as to where you would like to be in 3 to 5 years?  Having a clear vision of where you want to be in 3-5 years helps you to know what your next step will be.  I use many tools in my practice to help my clients get very clear about where they are headed.  If you would like help formulating a vision for your career, practice, business and/or life, I’d love to be your guide.  Call me at 781-598-0388 or email me at to set up a no obligation and no charge appointment to discuss working together.  For a coaching relationship to work, you have to feel comfortable with me and I have to feel comfortable that I am able to coach you.  We start by chatting first!


Comments are closed.