Mind,  Motivation

Is There Such a Thing as Being Motivated for the Wrong Reasons?

What motivates you? Sometimes our motivation to do things isn’t all that pure–righteous–or virtuous. Sometimes we just want to prove a point. Perhaps, we’re jealous or desire prestige.

These are examples of what we’ll call negatively sourced motivation.

However, is negatively sourced motivation BAD if it gets you motivated to do something GOOD in your life?

Now that’s a tough question. So, let’s break this thing down.

Negatively Sourced Motivation is:
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  • Worrying about other’s opinion
  • Wanting prestige and status
  • Wanting revenge
  • Having an obsession with money and wealth
  • Needing to prove a point or making a statement
  • Being a “one-upper” (basically, someone you know ran a half marathon, so you do a full marathon just to be one step better in comparison)
  • Wanting power
  • Being a people pleaser
  • Having feelings of jealousy
  • Only desiring compliments, positive feedback, and accolades
  • Needing tangible rewards
  • etc.

Negatively sourced motivation comes from unhealthy emotions such as insecurity, ego, anger, low self-esteem, etc. It’s also more extrinsic. Keep in mind, a lot of our motivation fits in this category.

Positively Sourced Motivation is:
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  • Valuing the journey/experience and not just the destination
  • Genuinely wanting to make a positive difference/impact
  • Enjoying the challenge
  • Being able to know you’re doing the best you can
  • Wanting to improve in certain areas of your life, such as your health, simply because you care about your well-being
  • Having passion/love of doing something
  • etc.

Positively sourced motivation comes from healthy emotions such as selflessness, caring, sound self-esteem, a “growth mindset,” etc. It’s also more intrinsic. However, don’t be fooled. Some of the things on this list might have negatively sourced motivation driving them.

Now let’s go back to the question: Is negatively sourced motivation bad if it gets you motivated to do something good in your life?

No. It’s not entirely bad.

For example, you might be motivated by revenge after a breakup. As a result, you decide to get healthier and take better care of yourself. Therefore, what had initially started out as revenge eventually leads you to completely turn your life around in a positive way.

Here’s another example. Let’s say you get turned down for something. To prove a point, you’re motivated to work even harder than before and go after something even better. You had initially wanted to prove a point, which you did. However, in the process, you’ve unlocked your potential and an even better outcome.

In this final example, negatively sourced motivation can also dissuade you from doing something. Yet, the outcome can be good. For instance, worrying about other’s opinion might make you not have an angry outburst or pick up a bad habit.

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Is there such a thing as being motivated for the wrong reasons? Yes, if the motivation is negatively sourced. Nevertheless, is it all that bad? Yes and no. This kind of motivation can lead to positive outcomes and positive changes in your life.

However, it can also be unhealthy. Especially if it’s your only source of motivation, which can be a very destructive path. Therefore, it’s important to evaluate how much of your motivation is negatively inspired. Next, evaluate if they lead to good or bad outcomes. Finally, don’t let the unhealthy emotions that inspire your motivation to linger. Try to redirect your focus on the positive outcomes (if any) so they become what’s driving you. Meanwhile, the negative emotion and source that originally sparked your motivation will eventually fade away as something more intrinsic and long-lasting takes its place.

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