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

 

Leaders Never Expect Logic Alone to Persuade

This is a guest post by Dianna Booher. Diana is the bestselling author of 46 books with nearly 4 million copies sold. Her latest book is What More Can I Say?: Why Communication Fails and What to Do About It.

Logic and Emotion

Peers expect you to build logical business cases, of course. Just don’t expect logical arguments to win people over to your way of thinking. Even in large corporations that focus on very logical approaches to strategy, culture, and analysis of data, change happens because the leaders find a way to help people see problems or solutions in ways that influence their emotions––not just their reasoning.

Research overwhelmingly confirms that people base buying decisions on emotion, and then support them with logic.  Or to put it as eloquently as poet Richard Bach did: “Compelling reason will never convince blinding emotion.”

 

“Compelling reason will never convince blinding emotion.” -Richard Bach

 

Obviously, an emotional appeal may be misused to manipulate others. In such situations, the very fabric of influence becomes flawed. But used with wisdom and integrity, emotional appeals can have tremendous power to sway people to change for the better. Here’s how:

 

Speak to the Heart

People often cannot hear logical reasons for change until they work through emotional issues surrounding that change.  In What More Can I Say?: Why Communication Fails and What to Do About It, I elaborate further on these emotional issues surrounding a logical need for change:

  • the message itself
  • the way the message is phrased
  • the character and personality of the leader
  • the listener’s interactions with the leader
  • the actual setting (physical, emotional, timing)

Analogies, illustrations, and metaphors matter a great deal in your phrasing.  Body language communicates caring, confidence, competence—or incompetence. Where and how you deliver the message determines if it hits a receptive or raw nerve.

Whether you’re talking about change, political campaigns, or charity, when you want to move people to action, speak to evoke emotion—to inspire, to call out their best, to appeal to a cause, to stand united.  To see how well emotional appeals work, look no further than the streets during a crisis.

 

Calm the Emotional Reaction of Fear

“That’s too hard.” “I can’t master this job.” “I can’t change that habit.”