Motivation – what does it mean to you?

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Motivation – what does it mean to you?

For most, “motivation” reflects the drive to achieve. What most people are not aware of, however, is that motivation can be positive or negative.

Positive motivation comes from within – the desire to achieve. Negative motivation comes from outside the person – the threat of the negative consequences of potentially not achieving something.

Positive emotion is an underpinning element of success

 at and away from the workplace,

and this is evident in all top performers.

Negative motivation involves feelings of being pushed or cajoled by an outside entity, perhaps by a life partner, business coach or significant others – this may bring the desired result, but can leave a person feeling disempowered – not a good place for an individual to be.

Negative motivation can also be easily recognised through your own internal language. Words like “should”, “must” “got to” and similar are all indicators of negativity. Changing those words to “want to”, “will” and so on can create a more positive slant on a situation. What is important is to appreciate that we are all in control of our own selves, and “negative” can easily be changed to “positive” through altering the way a situation is viewed and internalised.

This can be better understood by considering motivation as being under the influence of the in-dividual (your unconscious thoughts and behaviours) and the out-dividual (your conscious mind). You’ll easily recognise these in your own experience.

The in-dividual is that part of you that knows what to do and simply wants to get on with it and enjoy the experience of dong it well.

The out-dividual is that voice inside your head that says “make sure you remember to …”, or “don’t forget what they said to do if …” It also includes such thoughts as “well, you did it again, when will you get it right”, or “why do I always get that wrong”.

We’ve all got our own examples to draw upon. You will easily identify which words will create negative or positive motivation.

So, how can these two powerful forces – the instructing out-dividual and

the doing in-individual – develop a solid “working relationship”,

one that will lead to a high level of performance.


 As a first step, you need to appreciate this essential fact – the in-dividual mind learns best through visual imagery, while the out-dividual tends to not trust the in-dividual (and the body – your nerves, muscles etc) mind to utilise natural learning processes, and so takes on tasks it is not suited for, which of course creates conflict and impedes progress.

Keep in mind that the unconscious mind referred to here (the in-dividual) has the ability to repeat an action after “seeing” it even only once – it knows what nerves are required, what muscles to engage and so on. So why let the out-dividual take control?

Over instruction and negative criticism inhibits best performances from being achieved.

What would happen if we “trained” both parts of our mind to focus on those tasks they were designed to do.

Most likely, if successful, this would allow a positive working relationship to develop, and positive outcomes to be experienced – similar in fact to the kind of relationship between mother and child as the child grows into mature adulthood.

The end result … greater enjoyment of your daily tasks as well as improved performance through the now gainful utilisation of energy that was previously employed in criticism and self-destruction.

So, how can we achieve outcomes rather than good or bad performances – because an outcome denotes an action leading to a result, good or bad. And then, how can we maximise the attainment of outcomes desired and minimise those outcomes that don’t bring the rewards sought? Achieving what we desire is a positive motivation, one which creates its own positive mental attitude that in turn leads to even more achievement … and the desire to continue doing so.


The first step is to become aware of how each part – ie in-dividual and out-dividual – works:

  • Your out-dividual has the job of observing, evaluating, setting goals. At the same time, it needs to give the in-dividual the freedom to imagine and the trust that it can turn imagination into reality.
  • Your out-dividual needs to let go of the criticisms, the demands, the recriminations – “beating yourself up”. This will just perpetuate the problem.
  • Let the in-dividual learn the only way it knows how – visual imagery (not verbal control). A strong working relationship comes from a mutually positive understanding between the two “viduals” along with discipline on both their parts.
  • Protect your in / out-dividuals. Remember we are talking about thinkers and doers here. What you think about … what you visualise, even in idle dreaming – can determine a future outcome.


  • Allow your in-dividual self to program positively towards achieving anticipated outcomes rather than allowing your out-dividual self to look for ways of dodging errors and poor performances.

Is there a quick an easy way to move past a “mistake”? Yes …

  1. Recognise and acknowledge an error has occurred, and then let it go … move on … because you can’t change what has happened.
  1. Visualise what the preferred outcome was, and the action required to achieve it.
  1.  Allow both your selves to try to get it right next time – ask your in-dividual self to visualise how it will look and feel, then ask you out-dividual to trust this will happen.

But what if you “got it right” in the first place? Simple … praise both your selves for a job well done. Reinforce this outcome through visual replay, using all your senses to appreciate the event. Then, invite yourself to do the same again next time … and trust that it will when the time comes.

So, motivation – good or bad? The answer lies in the result, and in how a person prefers to entice themselves into action.

In either case, motivation doesn’t happen by itself. The clever person uses both their in-vidual and out-dividual selves to make the best of what has been dealt them.

What comes next depends on you – is your glass half full … or … half empty?


Jeff Withers, Behavioural Psychologist, Dynamic re-Engagement Australasia



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