Saturday, September 1, 2007

13 Negative Motivation Patterns

How do you get your motivation back?  You need to first know the negative thought patterns that take away your motivation. In Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy Revised and Updated, David Burns identifies thirteen negative motivation patterns.

Thirteen Negative Motivation Patterns
According to Burns, there's 13 procrastination and do-nothingism mindsets:

  • Hopelessness
  • Helplessness
  • Overwhelming Yourself
  • Jumping to Conclusions
  • Self-labeling
  • Undervaluing the Rewards
  • Perfectionism
  • Fear of Failure
  • Fear of Success
  • Fear of Disapproval or Criticism
  • Coercion and Resentment
  • Low Frustration Tolerance
  • Guilt and Self-blame

Thirteen Negative Motivation Patterns Explained
Burns explained the following 13 procrastination and do-nothingism mindsets as follows:

  • Hopelessness – Any activity will seem pointless because you are absolutely certain your lack of motivation and sense of oppression are unending and irreversible.
  • Helplessness – You can’t possibly do anything to make yourself feel better because you are convinced that your moods are caused by factors beyond your control, such as fate, hormone cycles, dietary factors, luck, and other people’s evaluations of you.
  • Overwhelming Yourself – You may magnify a task to the degree that it seems impossible to tackle. You may assume you must do everything at once instead of breaking each job down into small, discrete, manageable units which you can complete one step at a time. You might inadvertently distract yourself from the task at hand by obsessing about endless other things you haven’t gotten around to doing yet.
  • Jumping to Conclusions – You sense that it’s not within your power to take effective action that will result in satisfaction because you are in the habit of saying, “I can’t,” or “I would but …”
  • Self-labeling – The more you procrastinate, the more you condemn yourself as inferior. The problem is compounded when you label yourself as “a procrastinator” or “a lazy person.”This causes you to see your lack of effective action as the “real you” so that you automatically expect little or nothing from yourself.
  • Undervaluing the Rewards - You feel the reward simply wouldn’t be worth the effort.
  • Perfectionism – You defeat yourself with inappropriate goals and standards.
  • Fear of Failure – Because you imagine that putting in the effort and not succeeding would be an overwhelming personal defeat, you refuse to try at all. Several thinking errors are involved in the fear of failure. One of the most common is overgeneralization. You reason, “If I fail at this, it means I will fail at anything.” This of course is impossible. Nobody can fail at everything. A second mind-set that contributes to the fear of defeat is when you evaluate your performance exclusively on the outcome regardless of your individual effort. This is illogical and reflects a “product orientation” rather than a “process orientation.”
  • Fear of Success – Because of your lack of confidence, success may seem even more risky than failure because you are certain is it based on chance. You may also fear success because you anticipate people will make even greater demands on you. Because you are convinced you must or can’t meet their expectations, success would put you into a dangerous and impossible situation. Therefore, you try to maintain control by avoiding any commitment or
  • Fear of Disapproval or Criticism - You imagine that if you try something new, any mistake or flub will be met with strong disapproval or criticism because the people you care about won’t accept you if you are human and imperfect. The risk of rejection seems so dangerous that to protect yourself you adopt as low a profile as possible. If you don’t make any effort, you can’t goof up.
  • Coercion and Resentment - A deadly enemy of motivation is a sense of coercion. You feel under intense pressure to perform – generated from within and without. This happens when you try to motivate yourself with moralistic “shoulds” and “oughts.” You tell yourself , “I should do this” and “I have to do that.” Then you feel obliged, burdened, tense, resentful and guilty. You feel like a delinquent child under the discipline of a tyrannical probation officer. Every task becomes colored with such unpleasantness that you can’t stand to face it. Then, as you procrastinate, you condemn yourself as a lazy,
    no-good bum. This further drains your energies.
  • Low Frustration Tolerance - Your frustration results from your habit of comparing reality with an ideal in your head. When the two don’t match, you condemn reality. It doesn’t occur to you that it may be infinitely easier to change your expectations rather than to bend and twist reality.
  • Guilt and Self-blame - If you are frozen in the conviction that you are bad or have let others down, you will naturally feel unmotivated to pursue your daily life.

Key Take Aways
I think motivation is an important part of daily life. Knowing the set of negative motivation patterns can help you identify counter-productive self-talk that can get in the way of taking action. Here's my key take aways:

  • Add a buffer for tolerance in your day to day.  Rather than get frustrated when things go wrong, ask how yourself how you might avoid it next time.  For example, if you're always late because you get stuck in traffic, leave earlier.  When things go wrong, learn from them, but don't get frustrated.
  • Test your assumptions.  Don't talk yourself out of everything.  Prove it with action, and many times you'll be pleasantly surprised.
  • Start with something simple.  Don't bite off more than you can chew.  It's better to leap over small hurdles, than build a giant wall in front of yourself.
  • Change your self-talk.  You can beat yourself up, or you can lift yourself up.  Turn mistakes into lessons and carry forward lessons learned.  

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Shilaas said...

this is good about negative motivation, can u plx post positive motivation,

J.D. Meier said...

Thanks Shilaas.

Check out Feeling Good Book Nuggets ( for examples of positive motivation.