Success, failure and Motivation Part 1: What’s Driving You?


Part I: What’s driving you?  Could it be your Fear?

Motivating ourselves and others by Fear seems to dominate all areas of our lives. Have we forgotten what we really want?
This article reflects on the question: Where is all this taking us?

Every action is motivated by the desire to move TOWARDS or AWAY FROM  something or someone.There is an important difference in the way these two forces work.

Desire for Success

When you move TOWARDS a desired result (creating), the intensity of the drive INCREASES as you approach your goal, rather like a magnet pulling metal towards it. There is no need to push yourself in any way, as your chosen goal acts as its own motivation.

Fear of Failure

When your actions are motivated by the desire to move away from something (problem-solving), the intensity of your drive DECREASES as you move AWAY FROM the undesired object.When you have moved far enough from the undesired object, the drive stops. You have reached your goal.

Why is this distinction important? Because it is far more effective to be motivated by choosing to achieve what you want (creating), than by choosing to be motivated by avoiding or removing what you don’t want(problem-solving).


How often do we motivate ourselves, our colleagues, employees, and children, by focusing on what would happen if we failed?

I invite you to take time to reflect upon this, as the outcomes of these two approaches are qualitatively different.

When fear is your driving force, you have reached your goal and your drive stops when you are no longer afraid. Your drive does not carry you to the goal you desire, but only away from the result that you want to avoid.

So if you choose this method of motivating yourself, you can only hope to attain your desired goal by keeping yourself (or colleagues, employees, children etc.) under pressure.

You have to keep pushing yourself otherwise your driving force stops and you fall into a state of inertia.

Is this not the way that many people operate in our society?

Advertising campaigns for safe driving, for example, tend to focus on the terrible things that happen to people who drive recklessly. They show pictures of accidents and of guilty drivers losing their licenses and being sent to prison.

They attempt to create results by using the motivation of fear. No attempt is made to promote safe driving, but only to discourage reckless driving. It is hardly surprising that they do not appear to be successful.

The Price of Fear

The physiology of fear is such that it makes available a vast amount of energy in a very short space of time. In emergencies, this is essential for our survival. When maintained over a long period of time, however, it breaks down the tissues of our body and causes us serious damage.

When fear is our driving force, we have to work hard and we often pay a high price for it.

Consider this seriously, as it is one of the central issues we deal with in helping people live fuller and richer lives. Once you start to understand the underlying mechanics of motivation, the direction and quality of your life – and business – changes.

As most of us are so deeply conditioned to use fear as our driving force, it can take effort and soul searching to reach the truth as, when our habitual ways of operating are challenged, we move out of our comfort zone and the driving force of fear acts to push us back in.

Often, this force acts so quickly and astutely that we are not consciously aware of it, and this is where an experienced person – one who understands this distinction and does not operate by pushing – can be helpful in guiding you through this territory.

REFLECT upon this:

> What drives you?

> Which aspects of your life – and business – are driven by fear and which are by your choice to create the desired result?

> Are you able to tell the difference?

> If you really want the result you’ve chosen, why do you need to push yourself?

I end with a quote from Billy Connolly.

Be wary of those who say they have the answers. Seek instead the company of those who are trying to understand the questions!

Best wishes to you,

Donald Marmara