Sunday, 13 February 2011

The Power of Negative Thinking

A classic "motivational" approach is based on rewarding yourself for good behaviour. "If I complete this task, I'll:
  • have a chocolate bar
  • buy that new app
  • give myself two hours off to watch a DVD"


It seems fairly obvious, doesn't it? This, after all, will reward and therefore encourage positive behaviour. But you may have noticed that the thought of the reward becomes in itself a distraction. One corrosive strategy for getting your reward is to avoid doing the job long enough to, for example, pass a deadline. Then you reward yourself anyway because you need some comfort for yet another personal failing. Then, of course, you are in effect rewarding lack of effort!

What works much better for many people is instead to imagine the consequences of not doing the task. Then, when it is completed your reward is not some tangible goody, but a feeling of relief, achievement, eliminating a worry. There is no way you can get - or cheat your way to - this reward unless you complete the task.

Try it.

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