What Motivates Getting Things Done

Getting Things Done

The Role of Procrastination, Emotions, and Success

Anxiety may cause health problems in one person, but it may be the key motivator of another.

The fear of failure may paralyze one individual and for another be fuel in the tank on the way to success.

Negative emotions propel many people to success.

Mary Lamia, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist and psychoanalyst, a professor at the Wright Institute at Berkeley, and the author of numerous books. Her latest is What Motivates Getting Things Done: Procrastination, Emotions, and Success. In this book, she highlights the role of emotions and how our innate biological systems motivate us to achieve.

I recently talked with her about her considerable research and experience into the role of emotions and motivation.

 

Successful people often use their negative emotions to achieve their goals.

 

Understand Negative Emotion

Motivation. Most people talk about positive motivation, but you carefully talk about negative emotions. Why are negative emotions often overlooked or discounted in the motivational literature?

Labeling emotions as positive or negative has little to do with their value, but instead involves how they motivate us through the ways they make us feel. Negative emotions like distress, fear, anger, disgust, and shame motivate us to do something to avoid experiencing them, or they urge us to behave in ways that will relieve their effects. Although we can be motivated by anticipating the positive emotions associated with pride, such as enjoyment or excitement, often what motivates us to get something done has to do with our response to negative emotions, such as in the avoidance of shame or in an attempt to seek relief from anxiety about an uncompleted task. People who are successful in their endeavors have learned to make excellent use of the negative emotions they experience. Erroneously, my own profession has promoted the notion that only positive emotions motivate us. This is possibly a misconception based on the positive psychology movement which focuses on positive human functioning rather than mental illness, and has more to do with resilience than motivation.

 

“Professionally successful people are emotionally attached to their goals.” -Mary Lamia