Move TO your future not AWAY from your past

Photo by Fellowship of the Rich on flickr.

People seem to be motivated by one of two forces.  Either toward or against.

Both can be equally powerful motivators, but one seems to last.

Why are you in motion?

When I interview people for a job, I often ask questions about how the individual made career decisions.  Some job changes were motivated by moving AWAY from something—a bad boss, a negative work environment, low pay.  Other people make a change to move TOWARD something—a new opportunity, the ability to make a bigger impact, a better use of talent.

Though it’s not scientific validation, I’ve found that the people moving TOWARD the new opportunity are more successful, happier, and continue on an upward career path.  These people are energized by the future, by what’s to come, by what’s possible.

Contrast that with the people moving AWAY from a job.  It seems that the very same things that they didn’t like about the one job magically seemed to follow them to the next!

Moving TOWARD is more powerful than moving AWAY.

If you are losing weight, do you motivate yourself by looking in the mirror and thinking, “I am out of shape!”  Or do you post the picture of your ideal self on the mirror and imagine yourself with that body?  One is using AWAY motivation; the other TO power.  Both can work, but again, I think the ones motivated to a new vision are more successful in keeping the gains (or losses!).

If you are deeply in debt, watch your self-talk.  Is it I am going to “get out of debt” or do you think about “when I’m financially independent”?  Which is more motivating, thinking about not having to pay a VISA bill or imagining your well-deserved, fully paid tropical vacation?

Let’s consider two ways to get a child to clean up a room (or an adult cleaning a garage!).  “This place is a pig pen!” you shout, “I don’t know how you find anything.  I want this cleaned up….”  That’s moving AWAY from a dirty room, and it tends to be negative.  How about this instead, “Look at this picture in this magazine.  What a gorgeous bedroom!  Let’s create something like it today.  Let’s get started by….”

If you have a dream of financial success, drive to the neighborhood you want to live in someday.  Take a picture of a house you love.  Draw a picture of it.  When I was a little kid, I pointed to a house and told my parents, “That’s what my house will look like!”  I don’t even remember that conversation, but when my mom visited my house a few years ago, she was frozen in the driveway.   When we asked what was wrong, she said, “I’ve seen this house before.  When you were a kid, you pointed to a home just like this one and said one day you would live here!”

That’s moving TOWARD.

Think about your past goals, both the ones you achieved and the ones you didn’t. Were they TO goals or AWAY goals? Which seems to work better for you? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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