Motivating via Excitement vs. Fear

My favorite song from the past two years was Chris Stapleton's Starting Over, the second verse of which goes like this:

This might not be an easy timeĀ 
There's rivers to cross and hills to climbĀ 
Some days we might fall apartĀ 
And some nights might feel cold and dark

But nobody wins, afraid of losingĀ 
And the hard roads are the ones worth choosingĀ 
Someday we'll look back and smileĀ 
And know it was worth every mile

This verse always stands out to me. Particularly "nobody wins, afraid of losing". It reminds me of the old adage that goes something like: if you want to drive down the road but are afraid of crashing, don't look at the trees.

I've been thinking about this general dynamic lately, because it seems like there's a lot to be afraid of these days. AI, climate, wars (physical & cultural), economic uncertainty, etc etc. And it's easy to focus on the "tree" through all of it, rather than the potential "win".

On a more micro level, I've been watching my son wrestle with a tough slump in the middle of his baseball season. He plays on a very serious club team with a lot of great players, and there's a lot of focus on performance and stats. He got into a bit of a slump for a few weeks, and was feeling really down. He was working his butt off to improve, but it felt to me like something was missing. It seemed to me that he was motivating more from a fear of failure ("what if I don't make the team next year") vs a love of the game ("wow, it feels so good to hit the ball").

Both kinds of motivation can be helpful, for sure. Especially if they get you moving in the direction you need to move in. In my son's case he was able to break the slump, and -- I think -- re-gained some excitement for hitting. But motivating out of fear is really not very fun.

I'm a natural procrastinator, and so I'm very familiar with motivating out of fear. It's the worst. Part of my own working through that is to try and constantly remind myself of the vision and the excitement, as a way of breaking through the fear. Part of which is writing this post :-)

Collect this post to permanently own it.
The Slow Hunch by Nick Grossman logo
Subscribe to The Slow Hunch by Nick Grossman and never miss a post.