Carrot or Stick: What Pressure Do You Need?
If you reflect back on your grade-school experience, learning back then was pretty simple—your young mind was like a sponge and you did what the Teacher told you to (reinforced by your parents who said: “Listen to your Teacher!”) Bottom line, we “learned” because external pressure was applied to us. Now that we’re older, our minds aren’t so “porous” and (unless you have a Coach) there’s no one pushing us to continue learning, so we’re apt to settle into a mode of complacency.
Studies have shown that human behavior is largely motivated by one of 2 forces: we pursue pleasure (reward) or we avoid pain (consequences). Let’s look at the first (positive) part. For those of us that are married, remember back to when you “set the date”. We then had to work backwards from that date to the present to take care of all the details. The big day was set and everything that HAD to be done HAD to be done by that day. When we are that laser-focused on an outcome, it’s amazing what we can accomplish. No obstacle is insurmountable because we are incredibly motivated to reach that goal. What about the family vacation? The date is set, reservations are made, expectations built. Oh, and there are a million things we HAVE to get done before we leave! Look at how we “step up” and get things done (at a frantic pace) because the end result (time away with loved ones) is worth it. My very first client was a business where husband and wife worked with 7 Team members. They had owned the business for 14 years and never taken a vacation together, believing that they both couldn’t be away from the business at the same time. Long story short, one of the goals we accomplished in the first 6 months was to work things out in the business so that they took that vacation together. I count that as one of the most important and significant outcomes achieved on my watch.
Unfortunately, we find that most of us are more strongly motivated by the avoidance of pain. I like to drive fast, but not as fast as I like because I want to avoid the blue light, ticket, fine, points, insurance surcharge, etc. Business and personal taxes are paid on time because there are substantial penalties and interest for being late. In effect, the desire to avoid the consequences is sufficient to modify our behavior. What if the consequences are not sufficient? Look at professional sports: some guy in the NBA (making $50 million a year)“throws” an elbow and gets fined $10,000. That fine would modify my behavior but it’s not surprising that it doesn’t modify that player’s behavior. Another of my clients recently was having difficulty completing her assignments. I had been using all positive encouragement and to no avail. I asked her: “What if we try negative consequences?” She paused and said: “You know, I think that might work”. (She also said: “I hope it won’t be necessary for you to become the person I think it’s going to take to get me to do what I need to do.” How’s that for a revelation!) I asked: “How about if you don’t get your work done every week, you have to write a $50 check to my (Coach) favorite charity?” She said: “I don’t think I can afford that”. I said: “Good, then let’s make it $100!” She hasn’t missed an assignment since.
So, what is it going to be with you? Will you reward yourself when you achieve your goals or will you accept consequences for falling short? It’s your choice, your decision, your results. Select your course, make your commitment, choose to be accountable, claim your outcome. As Jim Rohn said: “The pain of discipline weighs ounces, whereas the pain of regret weighs tons.”