Has your boss ever threatened you that if you don’t do what it takes to get the job done you will be fired? Have you tried to quit smoking out of fear for your health? Have you ever started a strict diet because you were afraid of what your body would look like with these extra kilos?
If the answer to one of the questions above is yes this means that you have used fear as a motive for you to do something.
Fear is something normal and it is related to human nature. Actually, fear could be thought of as a defense mechanism that can alert us in case of possible danger.
If we see someone pointing a gun at us, fear would alert us to react in some way. We might for example scream, start running away, finding someplace to cover ourselves, attack the possible shouter or even freeze out of fear.
Although acting sometimes out of fear could turn out in a positive outcome, there are several other times that fear based motivation does not seem to work that good.
Fear Based Motivation in Workplace Environment
Fear used to be a well-known practice in workplace environments, and in some cases it still is. It was a common belief that managers had to evoke fear in their employees in order to achieve better performance, faster and better results.
Employees out of fear of losing their job or being replaced to a specific position by someone else would strive themselves to make it happen. But what would the outcome be for an employee if he / she had to work constantly in an environment that is based in this kind of fear?
This kind of working environment is absolutely toxic and negative and nobody would be willing to spend his / her life in one. It is the kind of environment that actually inspires people to escape from.
This fear based tactics might provide short term results but long term the employees would be unhappy, full of stress and negativity and they will possibly deal with burnout. Fear could lead employees to panic, loss of their creativity and imagination and loss of their ability to learn.
Employees sooner or later would decide to explore their options and realize that there are also other choices available.
Unfortunately, hardly ever, employers understand that their tactic is wrong. They usually think that it was something that employees did wrong and that is why they decide to leave.
“There is a quarter century of research that shows how people feel at work has a direct and powerful influence on how they perform.”Sigal Barsade
Fear Based Motivation for Better Health
We all know stories of people who found out that their health is in danger if they continue smoking, continue having an unhealthy lifestyle, eating junk food and don’t exercising at all. In some cases they might even have had a near death experience, like a stroke or had to fight with cancer and finally recovered.
People who go through something like this, at least at the beginning, are passionate about changing their lifestyle and do what it takes to protect themselves. Out of fear of what might happen if they don’t they start exercising, watching after their diet and quit all their bad habits.
Fear in this case works as a motivator, and works well enough to start doing good things for themselves for few weeks or even months. But only that. Fear is an effective motivator for short term period while results only come long term.
Fear alone is not able to inspire motivation in long term and that is because fear when lasts for too long tires you and makes you want to give up on your goals.
Alternative Approaches to Fear Based Motivation
The “if you don’t do this you will get fired” could be easily replaced with “If you have this ready on time you might get a bonus – a raise – a promotion”. The first sentence evokes fear which results to negativity and stress. The second sentence evokes hope which results to positive emotions. Hope can breed happiness and confidence.
While fear might put you on the move to start something it will not help you keep going. Love on the other hand could prove to be the fuel that can keep the motive alive and help you keep moving. Quitting a bad habit because you love yourself and want the best for him is healthier than quitting it because you are afraid of a stroke, cancer or bad body looks.
3. Joy and Pleasure
Whatever it is that you use fear to motivate you try to find something that actually offers you joy and find pleasure in it. If the fear of bad health motivates you to exercise, find a form of exercise that you enjoy like dancing or even just walking. If you need to start eating healthier discover healthy foods that you like, yes there are some of those!
Doing something out of fear or just because we have to will never offer us the passion needed to stay committed. Only if you start enjoying the changes in your life you will keep them long term.
Fear is necessary to motivate you to protect yourself in case of danger, but fear is not a good motive when it comes to life goals or career goals. For long term goals fear based motivation sets you in a condition of constant fear and stress that could harm your body and mind.
Fear based motivation is strongly related to negative thinking. This means that is focused on the wrong thing or on what could go wrong. This kind of thinking prevents us from looking at the bright side of things, at what is right or what might go great.
We are afraid of the outcome while we could anticipate for it. Things might go wrong, but things might also go great. Why should we focus on the negative and not see the bigger picture instead?
“Be not afraid of life. Believe that life is worth living, and your belief will help create the fact.”William James
I would like to read your thoughts on this. Have you ever used fear based motivation for a long term goal? How did it go?