I was thinking the other day about Suzanne, a woman I know who wanted to enroll in an art college, to pursue a career in photography. One of the requirements for entry was creating a portfolio for the college’s review.
Even though Suzanne had an intense passion for photography, and dreamed of making money doing something she loves so much, she “never got around” to completing that portfolio. As a result, she never applied to that school. When I spoke with her after these series of events, it didn’t take long for me to identify what her problem was – motivation.
Suzanne had a dream, but there was no immediate positive or negative consequence for inaction – other than Suzanne feeling frustrated and disappointed in herself that she couldn’t seem to take the steps needed to build that portfolio. That downward spiral of self-defeat only solidified her inaction.
Finding out what motivates you to accomplish your goals and achieve your dreams is such a crucial step in attaining “success” in your life. But for so many of us, we struggle to achieve our dreams because we never identify what it is we are going towards, or walking away from. The power of these triggers is the key to unlocking our individual success strategies.
Let’s take Suzanne for example. Following her passion for photography by going to art college, or otherwise pursuing a career in photography, is her Toward Motivation – a Positive Consequence from actuating her dream.
But that future state didn’t seem to be enough in her case. Suzanne didn’t have a corresponding Negative Consequence, something she was moving Away From. So, every day, working on her portfolio was just an Option that allowed her to use her “busy life” as a reason for her not pursuing her dreams.
A day would fill up with “to-do” items that just had to get done, and Suzanne would run out of time for her portfolio. Or something unexpected would come up that needed her immediate and undivided attention. The funny thing is, Suzanne understood the pattern. She even told me that she let “her own self get in the way.”
Now, she also doubted herself – thinking that she didn’t have the talent to produce a compelling portfolio. She even questioned whether pursuing a degree and career in photography was the ‘right’ decision for her.
But while self-doubt can be a big obstacle for people like Suzanne, I’ve found it’s more common that our inability to stay motivated Toward something in our lives comes down to not having clarity around both Negative and Positive Consequences.
It was great that Suzanne could envision the Positive Consequence of a day where she was living her dream, having clients seeking her out to pay her for her talent. But without a Negative Consequence Trigger structured into that vision, like so many people I work with, Suzanne couldn’t take real advantage of her Toward Motivation Trigger.
I wonder sometimes what Suzanne’s Negative Consequences might have been, and how compelling a role they could have played to motivate her. Now, I’m only guessing here, because I don’t have Suzanne’s own words to assist me. But decades of work in my field have taught me that people who are stuck in an unrewarding vocation tend to have many potential Negative Consequences they could combine with their Toward Motivation to help them actually move forward.
Often, these triggers revolve around things they feel every day. It could be dissatisfaction with their work environment. A lack of feeling fulfilled regularly at work. Many individuals have a sense of dissatisfaction and might feel “If I just find a new employer, I’ll be happier there.”
Understanding what your motivators are in terms of what you are moving Away From and Toward can help you avoid making what could be incorrect decisions, based on only one or the other of your triggers. Seeing your Negative and Positive Consequences together, will give you that clarity.
At this point, maybe you’re thinking: “But Shelle. I’m not sure what my triggers are. I thought I did. But if I did, how come I still can’t maintain momentum Towards my goal?”
Great questions. And congratulations for considering that you might not have the entire picture of what you are heading Towards and Away From. Getting unstuck from patterns that prevent you from reaching your goals relies heavily on the inner journey of unearthing what motivates you.
Here are some questions you can start asking yourself to get a better picture of what your motivation really is. I suggest that you get a pad and paper. And go somewhere where you can quietly concentrate, and ask yourself:
- Why is this goal important to me?
- What motivated me to set this goal in the first place?
- What are the consequences of accomplishing my goal?
- What are the consequences of not achieving it?
Your answers will be a great starting point to understanding what you are going Towards, and what you are walking Away From. If you can pack all of that into your Success Strategy, you’ll have a dynamite level of motivation.
Remember, this is about how you get motivated and stay motivated. Accomplishment of long-term goals is not usually a question of skill or knowledge. If it were, you could just hire someone to get the skill or research and find the information you need.
I’m not sure what will happen next for our friend Suzanne. As I said, she knew that she was getting in her own way. But if she never uncovers her motivators, to change those patterns, those patterns are likely to remain an obstacle to success for her.
I want to help you achieve your goals in life. We all deserve our dreams of greater fulfillment in life, and you will get a clear path to achieving yours.