Motivation – the carrot or the stick?

What works for you, the carrot or the stick? Do you work better with motivators (the carrot) or threats (the stick)? Learning and changing behavior is in good part about desire and motivation, and it’s important to know what works best for you. Are you naturally inquisitive and the very act of learning excites you? Are you near the end to adapt to anything until “last one out is a rotten egg” is shouted?

Use what works for you as you learn and develop new behaviors. My wife and I both lost weight last year. I think her motivation was the stick – she saw the possibility of more health complications in her life and decided enough was enough. I am so proud of what she was able to do last year, and it has turned her health life around. For me, it was seeing her losing the weight and realizing that I wasn’t doing that, despite working out regularly. So I joined a diet group at work. I hope I too will have the additional health benefits, but have certainly gotten a lot of carrots from colleagues (praise) for having lost those extra pounds. In a sense it was the stick that got to her, the carrot for me, but we both probably had some other carrots and sticks at work for each of us too. Nothing is purely one way or the other.

Think about grades – were you motivated by praise (for doing well) or fear of repercussions, real or not, of poor grades? And what was “good” and “poor?” Is only an A good enough? Are you a perfectionist? Do you get paid for good grades?

I am not mechanical at all. When I take the pipes apart under the sink to clean the drain, I am very proud of an accomplishment that I could do, other than calling a handyman or plumber. Again, it’s praise (although the stick may be the hourly cost of the plumber doing something I could do!) Again, it’s a combination of carrot and stick, although one is a primary motivator.

I’m a Scoutmaster and have Scouts working on Eagle. Some need their parents to hold something over their heads to get their work done (like driving lessons or car insurance). Others are self-starters and just go for it.

Decide what works for you, and be sure to use it when you need to or want to change/adapt behavior. I’d love to see your comments on what has worked for you, either as a carrot or a stick. Let’s see if we can gather a list of great motivators that have worked for people. Thanks! The carrot – you’ll see your name in print. The stick – hopefully some guilt that you haven’t replied!



About hprager

Father, husband, brother and son. Delighted to be friends and mentor to so many wonderful people. Passionate about: leadership, learning and development, education, nature and the environment, youth, music, jazz, the tuba, Israeli dancing, networking and helping others, humor, laughter, swimming, hiking, the Cubs, Northwestern athletics, theater, musicals, concerts, traveling and making new friends wherever I go. Helping the world be a better place when I leave it.
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2 Responses to Motivation – the carrot or the stick?

  1. watcat says:

    Hi this blog is great I will be recommending it to friends.

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