This was first published on KSL.com
I enjoy reading your articles, but one question I have is about how to stay motivated. I used to operate out of fear of failure all the time; but once I learned that I have value no matter what I do, I feel less motivated to work or do anything. I used to do most things because I was trying to earn other people’s approval. How do I stay motivated to be a high achiever now?
You have to switch to love motivation now, but it is foreign territory to most of us because we have been taught to be fear-motivated all our lives. Our parents told us to be good or we would be grounded or punished. We had to work hard in school so we wouldn’t get bad grades. The world, in general, instills fear of failure, which makes us compete and compare ourselves with others to have any value at all.
I have found the only way to improve self-esteem is to change the fundamental system upon which you base the value of human beings. Right now, many of us see human value as changeable, which means we see some humans as having more or less value than other humans. This means no matter how hard we try to improve ourselves, we will always find people who seem to be doing better and we will always be afraid we aren’t good enough.
The only way to rid yourself of fear of failure and constant insecurity lies in changing this fundamental belief. You must choose to believe that all humans have the same, infinite, absolute, unchanging value all the time — no matter their appearance, performance, property or popularity. But it doesn’t work unless you give up all judgment of others. You must quit judging and start letting every other person be good enough. The more you do this, the quicker you’ll understand that this also applies to you, and you no longer have anything to fear.
You’ll soon see that comparison makes no sense, and this is where the problem you described with your motivation begins. Your fear motivation doesn’t make sense anymore; and if you don’t replace it with a different “why,” you can start to be too content with where you are. Add to this trust in the universe that it always sends the perfect classroom journey for you, and you get even more overly content.
To fix this you have to understand the three types of fear motivation and how to replace them with love motivation.
Perfectionism fear motivation
Perfectionism fear motivation shows up any time you attach your value to (seeing it as affected by) anything in your life. You might think you have to perform or look perfect in order to have value.
Think about why you clean your house. If you are perfection-motivated, then every time you see the house messy you feel like a failure. You need the house to look perfect to think you have any value. The funny thing about this form of motivation is that sometimes it is not motivating. Sometimes it feels safer not to try something than it is to do it imperfectly.
To fix this, you must come up with a new love-motivated reason to clean the house. You might decide to provide this beautiful clean environment for your family because you love them. This will make it easier to let the house go if other activities with the family come up that would show love even more. You don’t need the house clean anymore. You just like to provide a clean house when you can.
Obligation fear motivation
Obligation fear is the motivation that says you should do this, you ought to do this, you have to do this, or you need to do this — whether you want to or not. These are usually tasks you don’t want to do, but you feel fear and guilt about if you don’t. Think about why you diet or exercise. Do you do it because you want to or because you should? Do you bypass the cake and eat a salad because you want to or because you feel you need to? This form of motivation might not be a great motivator, either. Because you really don’t want to do these things, your motivation won’t last.
To fix this, you must either find a form of exercise that you love to do or good healthy recipes that you would love to eat. You aren’t really going to stay motivated until you bring passion and love into it. Or set a goal to lose weight not to look better or earn approval, but because you love yourself and want to feel healthy and strong.
People-pleasing fear motivation
People-pleasing fear motivation says you must do this to be accepted or earn approval from others. Think about why you spend time and energy picking the right outfit or fixing your hair. Are you doing it because you want others to think highly of you? Are you cleaning the house because the neighbors are coming over and you want them to be impressed?
To fix this, you must decide either not to worry about your appearance or to do it for yourself, not other people. You should either not worry about the house being clean or clean it for a love-motivated reason.
The interesting thing about motivation is that if you look at the most successful people in the world, you will find they are motivated more by a passion for what they are doing than by fear. We think fear is required for motivation, but the truth is fear is not that motivating at all. You will be more motivated when you find a love-driven “why” for what you want to do.
During the pandemic, I am hearing from many people who are struggling to stay self-motivated at home. Again, you have to really look at your “why” and find a passion-driven reason. Do things because you love your family or yourself and want to give them or yourself a better quality of life. Do things because you love God, humanity and helping others. Do something because you love to do it.
When you are going to do anything, ask yourself "Why am I doing this?" Get honest with yourself about whether this is a love- or fear-motivated reason. Either change the activity or change the “why,” and live your whole life from love. I promise you will be happier.
You can do this.
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Kimberly Giles is the president and founder of Claritypoint Life Coaching and 12 SHAPES INC. She is an author and professional speaker. She was named one of the top 20 advice gurus in the country by Good Morning America in 2010. She appears regularly on local and national TV and Radio.