Fear-Based Motivation: How to Switch to a Love-Based Approach

Fear-Based Motivation: Fear can be an effective catalyst for motivation – but it’s not the best. Sure, the work will be completed on time if your boss gives you an ultimatum between that and losing your job. It will leave a very bad taste in your mouth, even a chip on your shoulder.

This type of motivation can also lead to paralysis – not everyone responds to fear in the same manner. Remember the “deer in the headlights” concept?

Additionally, a fear-based environment asphyxiates us. We become so focused on short-term goals that there is no room for vision, personal growth, and innovation.

Fear-based motivation can also blow up in the face of the practitioner. This reminds me of the time when I threw a wooden pallet at my supervisor for busting my you-know-whats because he wanted to “motivate me” – but that’s another article in and of itself (anger management perhaps?).

To be fair, fear can motivate us in healthy ways - especially when something crucial and perhaps harmful comes our way. 

Like when a Grizzly bear charges you or when Melissa gives me the hairy eyeball for eating all of her peanut butter snacky cookies. Now that is cause for motivation.

We all have a certain amount of fear-based motivation. But, is it the best way to get people to do things? I can assure you that the boss’s method of threatening your job is not conducive to building loyalty and a love for one’s work environment. Simply put, it’s an unhealthy way of motivating people - as is throwing a wooden pallet at a supervisor.

I was brought up in a fear-based setting. “If you do such and such, you’re going to hell. If you don’t pass your exam, you won’t get into a good school, you won’t get a good job, and you will be homeless.” What better way to set someone up for a life laced with anxiety, stress, and depression!  

It is my belief that motivation based on fear is unsustainable in the long run. Yes, the first time you threatened my job worked. But now, you also just lit a fire in my belly to start searching for a better one so thanks for THAT motivation.

Side note: the increased turnover rate at a company just adds to their expenses – proving that their fear-based motivation doesn’t work. The joke is on them.

Keep this in mind, the very people who employ these tactics are bullies. Yes, it did motivate me to “get the job done.” However, the motivation had unintended consequences for these bullies. I took steps to exit that environment and it motivated me to never be like them.

Fear-based motivation forces us to focus on the stress and what is going wrong. How can we do our best and be our best if the focus is always on the negatives? We can’t. It keeps us from identifying and meeting our long-term goals. It also keeps us from reaching our fullest potential as human beings. It’s just plain toxic.

The long game is what matters. I never had an interview where I was asked why I got a B in physics. I ended up getting the job and enjoyed a long-term career.

My only advice going forward is to employ “mind judo.” Use the negative energy of fear-based motivators to propel yourself to pursue your goals. This will empower you to remove yourself from such situations. You don’t have to put up with it anymore.

Revenge is having the last laugh. Now that’s motivating ….~Ted

Turn Fear-Based Motivation Into Love-Based Motivation:  
5 Questions to Get Started 
~parts adapted via Lifehack.org

1. What Would You Say to a Friend?

Chances are that you talk to your friends in a much kinder way and with more empathy than you talk to yourself. You wouldn’t tell a friend, “you better starve yourself and hit the gym three times a day to look good in that bikini!” Instead, you would probably say something like, “I’m so excited to go on this vacation with you! I can’t wait to spend time catching up while sipping margaritas on the beach.”

Talk to yourself the way you would talk to your friend.

2. What Are You Curious About Learning That Could Help Get to Your Goal?

More often than not, achieving our goals is more about the journey it took us to get there than the goal itself. 

Curiosity makes journeys more fun. Perhaps you are curious about doing a triathlon but you don’t know how to run. If you spend three months learning to run, you would get into better shape and learn something new.

3. How Can You Get to Your Goal In a Way that Feels Good?

Using the “Yes, And” game is a great way to come up with innovative ideas for working towards your goals. If your first instinct is to go to the gym six days a week but you aren’t jazzed about it, find something that you like about that idea and make it better.

For example, if what you like about going to the gym is that you work up a sweat, what if instead of the gym, you join a dance class where you can learn some new moves to show off on your vacation?

4. What's Important to You About Your Goal?

When you dig into your goal, chances are that you’ll find a deeper meaning. If your goal is to “look good in a bikini,” ask yourself why that’s important to you.

For example, “I want to look good in my bikini because I want to have fun on vacation.” Then, ask yourself how much having fun on your vacation depends on how you look in your swimsuit.

5. What Heart-Centered Action Can You Take That Will Help You Reach Your Goal?

Whether your goal remains bikini-focused or changes to ways of having a good time on your vacation, choose an action that you can take that feels like it is coming from a place of love instead of fear.

For example, suggest to your friends that you take scuba diving classes as a group before vacation. It will get you moving and bring your friends together.

Fear-based motivation may help you achieve your goals in the short term, but it won’t lead to long-term happiness and satisfaction. Fear isn’t designed to be used for long periods, and you will eventually tire of the fear and give up on your goals. Love, however, is designed for longevity.

Finding your motivation in a place of love will fuel you to reach your goals, whether your goals are about feeling good in a bikini, getting a promotion at work, or speaking up for what you believe in.

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