We’ve all been raised to believe that incentives motivate people. That placing a carrot at the end of a stick is what really gets someone running. This is often true, but think about how many “carrots” are at the end of your stick – meanwhile the majority of your time is spent simply staring at the prize or opportunity dangling in front of you. It is because of this that I’ve found dis-incentives to be much more powerful motivators. Because we as humans are exponentially more reactive to fear of loss than the opportunity to gain. Specifically when it comes to our egos.
Now, how does that relate to motivating oneself using fear and insecurities? Well, it should not be a novel concept to anyone that your ego is made up of insecurities and fears. I’ve never feared being rejected by a girl, I’ve only ever feared hurting my ego. The times I’ve felt insecure around kids who go to more prestigious universities had little to do with where they actually went to school but instead my sense of pride in my own accomplishments – which rattles my ego. Thus, recognizing this process back in high school I began wondering how I could use it to my advantage.
Like I said in the last post, being honest with yourself is probably the most important thing in life, and I could drown you in great quotes from some of history’s most celebrated people asserting so. In my case, I’ve never really cared too much about what people think of me in most ways. I’d shamelessly wear my men’s yoga pants when I lived in a frat house simply because I liked them – regardless of the looks I received and rumors they started. And social suicide or not, when it comes to hobbies or anything I find interesting I dive in. However, what I DO care about is whether or not people take my word seriously.
Keeping promises and following through on my word are the two qualities I value most in myself, and I get completely shaken when I fall through on either. Even though I constantly find myself being a hypocrite, nothing bugs me more than when others point it out to me. I have no clue where I developed this deep sense of pride in my own word, but somehow I did, and my fear of someone thinking I’m not good for it is one of my greatest insecurities. Simply put, my ego is decimated whenever someone doesn’t take my promises seriously, or believe what I tell them. After recognizing this, I found a simple way to use it to help me instead of limit me.
My freshman year of college I wanted to eat much healthier than I had ever before and walk on to BU’s D1 crew team. So to accomplish both these goals, I told literally EVERYONE I met that I only ate salads and was walking on to the crew team (not trying to, but doing it). Why would I do this? To put my greatest insecurity on the line. Now, if a single person saw me eating anything but a salad, or if I didn’t make it onto the crew team, people wouldn’t take my word seriously – and there wasn’t any beast I wouldn’t slaughter to prevent that from happening. Doing so successfully motivated me to push myself to walk on to the crew team, and by the end of the year [no joke] some people simply knew and introduced me as, “the kid who only eats salad”.
Your greatest fear or insecurity may be rejection, disappointing your parents, going to hell, or maybe even spiders! However, the method I’ve used to motivate me to accomplish most all of the things I’ve been able to do in my life is that of putting myself in situations where failure to act only results in what I fear most. When I wanted to learn to cook, I started telling everyone I was a good cook and that we should do dinner together – knowing there was no way in hell I’d not have my ducks in a row by the time that meal came around, and that people were expecting it. Recognize your greatest fear and find a way to make it the punishment for not pursing the things you are passionate about – it works.