A guy giving me a sales pitch last year said to me,
"We've found that only about 20% of people are what we call 'Toward People'-- the ones who move toward pleasure; the other 80% of people are 'Away People' who move away from pain."
Am I able to see what I want and go after it or do I wait until the pain of what I have is so heavy that my motivation comes more from avoiding discomfort?
Any parents, teachers, managers, or other professions that necessitate motivating others know first-hand that this rule holds some truth. With one kid you have to promise ice cream to get the desired results; whereas with another it's not until you threaten to take away their TV privileges that they feel inspired. With weight loss as the example, some friends are chasing a goal--say posing in a bikini-- that motivates them; others, if honest with themselves, are just tired of feeling shame and would give anything to stop feeling that way.
It seems important to know which one we are. The last thing we want is to be in a bikini and still feel shame.
Why Do You Want to Make Friends?
Are you seeking new friends because you know how much fun it will be? Are you already looking forward to the activities, the sharing, and the bond? Are you motivated to invite now by thinking about what you can be experiencing a year from now? Are your eyes on the prize? Are you moving toward the pleasure you want?
Or... are you seeking friends because you're tired of feeling disconnected? Are you feeling the loneliness, the ache, and the angst of what it feels like to not have the friends you most want? Are you motivated to invite now because you want to stop feeling the pain of feeling unsupported or unknown? Are your eyes on the pain? Are you moving away from the pain you feel?
Of course the two are interconnected: accomplishing one hopefully impacts the other. But that's not always the case, is it? The strategy and results might look different based on which one is the primary motivator.
- For example, if you're a Toward Person then you probably have a vision of what you want. Perhaps it's sitting in your backyard with a friend watching your kids play, meeting up with a group of friends for lunch downtown where you can talk work and vent, or having one person who knows everything going on in your life because you're both texting each other all through out the day? Knowing the picture you want-- gives you instant information about the strategy you will want to employ, whether it's finding other women who work nearby or other women who have kids who will play with yours.
- Whereas, if you're an Away Person then you could theoretically reach any of those visions listed above but still feel angst if you didn't first identify what pain you're trying to avoid. Maybe it's the pain from being mad at someone, the pain of feeling misunderstood, or the pain of feeling isolated. Sitting in the backyard watching your kids play may not be the answer? In fact it may exacerbate the pain because you'll be confused why you still feel mad, misunderstood, or lonely if you didn't figure out why you were feeling those things and articulate what you believe would help you move away from that feeling.
I don't actually think one is worst than the other as much as they both just describe human nature and how we're wired differently. What could be damaging is not knowing which path feels most motivating to you.
Questions to Lead to Your Own Motivation
It's undoubtedly not as easy as an either/or answer for you, but I challenge you today to try to answer these following questions:
- Do you most need to move toward something or away from something?
- Based on that answer, write at least one full paragraph articulating either the feelings/experiences you want to pursue or avoid.
- Now let an image come to mind of you reaching your goal (what does it look like if you're not feeling that way, or what does it look like for you to reach the experience you're pursuing) and describe or draw what you see. What are you doing? What does your face look like? Who else is there? What are you feeling?
- What does your voice of wisdom and maturity say is your take-away from this exercise? Is there an action you want to take? Is there something you want to remember?
Naming which one resonates with us might give us some ah-ha into how to best keep ourselves motivated. It also hopefully helps us reach our real goals--whether it's the obtain something or avoid something. Both are important. But which one matters most?
If I could wave my little magic wand then I'd hope for you both the joy of pursuing pleasure and the peace from moving away from pain. But since I can't find it right now, what I want for you is your clarity in knowing which one matters most to you right now so that your chances of success increase. May you feel more relaxed in your friend-making journey as you sense that you have landed on what really will keep you motivated.
And, by the way, I bought the software from that sales guy. He won me over. Ha!
p.s. I finished my next book manuscript! Woohoo!! This was a case of first being a Toward person as it was the joy of writing and teaching that motivated me to write a book proposal last summer for my agent to start pitching to publishers. But then, in recent months I was definitely more motivated by recognizing that there was pain I wanted to Avoid. When the book felt hard-- and oh this one was squeezing me tight and pounding me with pressure--the only thing that kept me going was not wanting to miss a deadline or disappoint my editor. I was all about the avoiding pain! Ha! So sometimes we can use both to our advantage! :) I CANNOT wait to share this book with you... as soon as I know the publication date-- I'll let you know!