In my recent article on motivation, I explained how using positive emotions and rewards can help keep you motivated for the long term. Day in and day out, using positively framed goals and adding in rewards as much as possible will keep you motivated more than trying to propel yourself constantly out of fear or pain. So, wallow in the good feelings.
But, there is a time and place when thinking about negative consequences can actually work in your favor, even if that does bring up a little bit of unpleasantness and fear of a repeat experience.
Joy and rewards keep your motivation going, like an Energizer battery for your brain. Negative emotions are immensely powerful, but for a moment. Use them like hand grenades. You can’t trust them to work as a chronic power source, but you can use them in a pivotal moment when you need mega-power to resist temptation.
Let’s say you are faced with a moment of great temptation, such as an invite to the Brazilian steakhouse, where you know you will not escape with any fewer than 12 pounds of meat in your belly. In that pivotal moment, calling up the memory of your last Brazilian bellyache, complete with meat sweats, a poor night’s sleep, followed by a bloated face greeting you in the mirror the next lethargic morning… might be just the thing to help you see the big picture, complete with the consequences. And maybe you don’t really want to take your pal up on that invite.
So don’t conclude that reminding yourself of negative consequences is altogether useless; just save that tactic to leverage you when you really need it.
The bottom line: Love what you’re doing and motivation will stick. In isolated incidents when you want to turn away from something, bring to mind the complete story, with all the unpleasant consequences, so you can see the whole picture. A little fear and pain recall can remind you of what’s important and what you truly want to do. Use positive emotions as your day to day motivational battery; use fear or pain sparingly, hand grenades for emergency temptation.