More on motivation

Everyone has to learn from their failures in order to succeed.


There are thousands of things that motivate people, such as money, recognition and free movie tickets. These are called “motivators”. There are only two types of “motivation”: motivation to succeed and motivation to avoid failure. This should be viewed as a continuum in which we can shift from one type of motivation to another, depending on the context in which we find ourselves. For example, you might be very motivated to succeed in presenting your company strategy to your team, however when asked to present the same presentation to the global executive you may become motivated to avoid failure, with thoughts like “I had better not stuff up”.


Individuals with motivation to succeed, focus on succeeding and have appropriate processes in place to ensure they achieve their full potential. Full potential doesn’t necessarily suggest the only option is winning. These individuals are able to view failure as another option – as a stepping stone to success. These individuals are driven by their own interpretation of the event, not others.


Conversely, individuals who are motivated to avoid failure still want to succeed, but are focused on negative evaluations if they fail. This is common with individuals, who are constantly being evaluated by others. It is hard not to personalise any defeats. The emphasis is always on the negative evaluation, so their behaviour becomes driven by the need to avoid failure.


Individuals who are motivated to avoid failure will display certain behavioural characteristics, such as choosing to take the safe road, not placing themselves in situations in which negative evaluation could occur. They are often great workers who, for some reason, will always seem to play it safe, never pushing the barrier, rarely taking a chance, and reluctant to try something completely new. They are often regarded as the people who simply like to tread the path most worn.



Consider these questions and jot down your thoughts

  • Who do I compete or work for? (For instance, my company, my managers or myself?)
  • How do I evaluate failure?
  • How could I use a failure to increase performance?


Examine this chart from the perspective of how you approach situations, and how you respond to failure


Motivated to avoid failure characteristics Motivated to succeed characteristics
Outcome-focused Task-focused
Achieve at any cost Planned process, ethical and moral
Display superiority over others Display mastery of task
One step analysis Multiple step analysis
Reaction to failure Reaction to failure
Decrease effort or intensity Redirect and increase effort and intensity
Increase cheating or blaming Increase focus
Increase in excuses Ownership of error
Failure = threat to ego Failure = stepping stone to success


Sometimes all it needs is a shift in thinking to alter your motivational mindset and ultimately achieve your full potential.