Are You Motivated By Pain or Pleasure?

Are You Motivated By Pain or Pleasure?

Pain People

You’re a pain person if threat of loss puts you into high gear. This makes you a good crisis manager and someone people look to when issues arise. You tend to be slow to act and measure things from all sides, feeling no real pressure to move until you have to. People see you as solid, dependable, and down to earth.

On the flip side, people can also see you as dry and boring. That’s because pleasure, though important, has no real influence on what you do and don’t do.

The conversation in your head goes something like this – “that would be fun, but…” “I think that would be great, but…” Only when the pleasure of acting overcomes the “but for” reasons does pleasure win out. So for you to move on pleasure it has to be a big deal, with a major upside. Here are some other characteristics you may have:

  • Move to eliminate pain: You are most motivated when you can clearly see how action will eliminate pain.
  • Slow to act: Because you are risk averse, you tend to be slow to act and labeled conservative. After all, early action is usually to maximize gain not reduce losses.
  • In a jam you are damn good: People may misjudge your laid back laissez-faire attitude for not caring, but when the sh!t hits the fan you are the first and most active champion for fixing what’s broke.
  • Very Competitive: You would think people whofocus on pleasure would be more competitive, but generally they aren’t, because they define their world for themselves. On the other hand, as a pain driven personality, your sense of self is defined relative to others. So for you, competition threatens your ego, and worse, if not dealt with, you feel it leaves you open to future attack.
  • Dangerous in a fight: You are the last person someone should pick a fight with, because when you think you will lose you will do anything to win. Like Clark Kent in a crisis, you transform from mild-mannered to Superman when threatened.
  • Hard to motivate and please: Like most people, you hold what causes you pain secret, which gives people very little leverage to motivate you. Though this protects you, it also alienates those closest to you because they try hard to please you with very little results.
  • Pleasure matters, it just has to be huge: You typically see costs and risk well before gain, so small things just don’t move you. Getting a 10% raise – “so what, now I have to work more.” Buy 2 for 3 – “I still have to buy 2,” etc. But when benefits seem outrageous compared to cost, you will indulge. A new job making twice as much, or a “buy 1 get 5 free” at a clearance sale – now you’re talking, smiling, and motivated.

Keys to motivating Pain People

  • Emphasize pain: You want to be sure to tie decisive action to eliminating pain. For example: “If I don’t change the oil in my car every 3,000 miles, it will break down and cost me $3,000 to fix. So, 3,000 mile oil change or $3,000 fix?”
  • Make it urgent and pressing: You like to put things off and procrastinate until the pain of not acting outweighs acting. Short-circuit this by making things urgent and pressing – now. Here’s a close I used on a client of mine who notoriously waits until the last minute to get work done: “I only have a two-week window to work on your project. If we can’t make a decision now, you will have to wait eight weeks for my next availability, and by then we will be into peak season pricing. I need an answer today to reserve your spot.”
  • Pull the competitive chain: I’m a sucker for this one. If you pose something and even hint at competition, my interest will be piqued. To motivate myself when I feel my focus slipping, I visit my competitors’ websites. Almost immediately, I hear a voice saying “You’re better than them and you better prove it.” Instantly I find I’m revived and ready for another round.
  • Create an enemy to fight: Sometimes faceless competition is not enough to get you going. What you need then is a defined enemy that in your mind is working to destroy you. It doesn’t matter who the enemy is, just make it clear that stopping them stops all the pain. Note this is a great way to motivate not only yourself but a group of people, because they will be galvanized around a clear objective – beating the enemy.
  • Make the benefit too much to pass on: Minimize costs by downplaying them, while at the same time piling on the benefit. As an added bonus, try to restate the benefit in terms that eliminate pain. In the end it will feel dumb to pass on low cost benefits. For example: “If I take this job I will double my income. All I have to do is move to a new city. They will pay for it, I can call friends, and take long weekends. I will also have more money that gives me financial freedom and security…” Formula = Big gain, minimized cost, restating gain in terms of eliminating pain.

Putting it all together: pain person inner dialogue:

“This report is very important and the only time I have to do it is tonight. If I don’t get it done, I will get skipped over and possibly lose my job. Also Bill will ride me and bust my chops daily, he’s been waiting to stab me in the back for years. No way that’s happening, I’ll get the report done tonight and make sure to stick it to Bill. I will get the promotion and be able to keep my job – it’s just one night and one small report.”

We have:

  1. Urgency of now (due tomorrow)
  2. Emphasize pain (skipped over, lost job)
  3. Competition and clear enemy (Bill)
  4. Big upside, small cost (keeping your job for one night and one report)

Once you know whether your internal focus is pleasure or pain, start to purposefully cater to it using the above techniques. In time you will instinctively know what buttons to push and when. The result will be more on-time motivation for when you need it most.

Now that sounds pleasing, or should I say comforting…

Out.. H.X.

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